- Our Work
- News & Media
- Get Involved
DOROTHY RIDINGS: Good evening from the Kentucky Center for the Arts in Louisville, Ky. I'm Dorothy Ridings, president of the League of Women Voters, the sponsor of tonight's first Presidential debate between Republican Ronald Reagan and Democrat Walter Mondale. Tonight's debate marks the third consecutive Presidential election in which the league is presenting the candidates for the nation's highest office in face-to-face debate. Our panelists are James Wieghart, national political correspondent for Scripps-Howard News Service; Diane Sawyer, correspondent for the CBS program ''60 Minutes,'' and Fred Barnes, national political correspondent for The Baltimore Sun. Barbara Walters of ABC News, who is appearing in her fourth Presidential debate is our moderator. Barbara: MODERATOR: A few words as we begin tonight's debate, about the format. The position of the candidates, that is, who answers questions first, and who gives the last statement was determined by a toss of the coin between the two candidates. Mr. Mondale won. And that means that he chose to give the final closing statement. It means, too, that the President will answer the first question first. I hope that's clear. If it isn't, it will become clear as the debate goes on. Further, the candidates will be addressed as they each wanted and will therefore be called Mr. President and Mr. Mondale. Since there will also be a second debate between the two Presidential candidates tonight will focus primarily on the economy and other domestic issues. The debate itself is built around questions from the panel. In each of its segments a reporter will ask the candidates the same general question. Then - and this is important - each candidate will have the chance to rebut what the other has said. In the final segment of the debate will be the closing segment and the candidates will each have four minutes for their closing statement. And as I have said, Mr. Mondale will be the last person on the program to speak. And now I would like to add a personal note, if I may. As Dorothy Riding's pointed out, I have been involved now in four Presidential debates, either as a moderator or as a panelist. In the past there was no problem in selecting panelists. Tonight, however, there were to have been four panelists participating in this debate. The candidates were given a list of almost 100 qualified journalists from all the media and could agree on only these three fine journalists. As moderator and on behalf of my fellow journalists I very much regret as does the League of Women Voters that this situation has occurred. And now let us begin the debate with the first question from James Wieghart. Mr. Wieghart.
(4:42) REPORTER: Mr. President, in 1980, you promised the American people, in your campaign, a balanced budget by 1983. We've now had more and bigger deficits in the four years you've been in office. Mr. President, do you have a secret plan to balance the budget some time in the second term, and if so, would you lay out that plan for us tonight? REAGAN: I have a plan. Not a secret plan. As a matter of fact, it is the economic recovery program that we presented when I took office in 1981. It is true that earlier, working with some very prominent economists, I had come up, during the campaign, with an economic program that I thought could rectify the great problems confronting us: the double-digit inflation, the high tax rates that I think were hurting the economy, the stagflation that we were undergoing. Before even the Election Day, something that none of those economists had even predicted had happened, that the economy was so worsened that I was openly saying that what we had thought the basis of our plan could have brought a balanced budget; that was no longer possible. So the plan that we have had and that we're following, is a plan that is based on growth in the economy, recovery without inflation, and reducing the share of the, that the Government is taking from the gross national product, which has become a drag on the economy. Already we have a recovery that has been going on for about 21 months, to the point that we can now call it an expansion. Under that, this year, we have seen a $21 billion reduction in the deficit from last year, based mainly on the increased revenues the government is getting without raising tax rates. Our tax cut, we think, was very instrumental in bringing about this economic recovery. We have reduced inflation to about a third of what it was. The interest rates have come down about 9 or 10 points, and we think must come down further. In the last 21 months, more than six million people have gotten jobs. There have been created new jobs for those people to where there are now 105 million civilians working where there were only 99 million before, 107 if you count the military. So we believe that as we continue to reduce the level of Government spending, the increase, rate of increase in Government spending, which has come down from 17 to 6 percent, and at the same time as the growth in the economy increases the revenues the Government gets without raising taxes, those two lines will meet. And when they meet, that is a balanced budget.
(7:49) REPORTER: Mr. President, the Congressional Budget Office has some bad news. The lines aren't about to meet according to their projection; they project that the budget deficit will continue to climb. In the year 1989 they project a budget deficit of $273 billion. In view of that and in view of the economic recovery we are now enjoying, would it make sense to propose a tax increase or take some other fiscal measures to reduce that deficit now when times are relatively good? REAGAN: The deficit is a result, it is a result of excessive Government spending. I do not, and very frankly, take seriously the Congressional Budget Office projections because they have been wrong on virtually all of them, including the fact that our recovery wasn't going to take place to begin with. But it has taken place. But as I said we have the rate of increase in Government spending down to 6 percent. If the rate of increase in Government spending can be held to 5 percent - we're not far from there - by 1989 that would have reduced the budget deficits down to a $30 billion or $40 billion level. At the same time if we can have a 4 percent recovery continue through that same period of time, that will mean without an increase in tax rates, that will mean $400 billion more in Government revenues. And so I think that the lines can meet. Actually, in constant dollars, in the domestic side of the budget there has been no spending increase in the four years that we have been here.
(9:33) REPORTER: Mr. Mondale, the Carter-Mondale Administration didn't come close to balancing the budget in its four years in office either, despite the fact that President Carter did promise a balanced budget during his term. You have proposed a plan combining tax increases and budgetary cuts and other changes in the administration of the Government that would reduce the projected budget deficit by two-thirds to approximately $87 billion in 1989. That still is an enormous deficit that we'll be running for these four years. What other steps do you think should be taken to reduce this deficit and position the country for economic growth? MONDALE: One of the key tests of leadership is whether one sees clearly the nature of the problem confronted by our nation. And perhaps the dominant domestic issue of our times is what do we do about these enormous deficits. Respect for PresidentI respect the President. I respect the Presidency and I think he knows that. But the fact of it is every estimate by this Administration about the size of the deficit has been off by billions and billions of dollars. As a matter of fact, over four years, they've missed the mark by nearly $600 billion. We were told we would have a balanced budget in 1983. It was $200 billion deficit instead. And now we have a major question facing the American people as to whether we'll deal with this deficit and get it down for the sake of a healthy recovery. Virtually every economic analysis that I've heard of, including the distinguished Congressional Budget Office, which is respected by, I think, almost everyone, says that even with historically high levels of economic growth, we will suffer a $263 billion deficit. In other words, it doesn't converge, as the President suggests. It gets larger, even with growth. What that means is that we will continue to have devastating problems with foreign trade. This is the worst trade year in American history, by far. Our rural and farm friends will have continued devastation. Real interest rates, the real cost of interest, will remain very very high. And many economists are predicting that we're moving into a period of very slow growth because the economy is tapering off and may be a recession. I get it down to a level below 2 percent of gross national product with a policy that's fair. I've stood up and told the American people that I think it's a real problem, that it can destroy long-term economic growth, and I've told you what I think should be done. I think this is a test of leadership and I think the American people know the difference.
(12:56) REPORTER: Mr. Mondale, one other way to attack the deficit is further reductions in spending. The President has submitted a number of proposals to Congress to do just that, and in many instances the House, controlled by the Democrats, has opposed them. Isn't it one aspect of leadership for prominent Democrats such as yourself to encourage responsible reductions in spending and thereby reduce the deficit? MONDALE: Absolutely. And I have proposed over $100 billion in cuts in Federal spending over four years. But I am not going to cut it out of Social Security and Medicare and student assistance and things that people need. These people depend upon all of us for the little security that they have. And I'm not going to do it that way. The rate of defense spending increase can be slowed; certainly we can find a coffee pot that costs something less than $7,000. And there are other ways of squeezing this budget without constantly picking on our senior citizens and the most vulnerable in American life. And that's why the Congress, including the Republicans, have not gone along with the President's recommendations.
(14:13) MODERATOR: I would like to ask the audience please to refrain from applauding either side. It just takes away from the time for your candidates. And now it is time for the rebuttal, Mr. President: one minute of rebuttal. REAGAN: Yes, I don't believe that Mr. Mondale has a plan for balancing the budget. He has a plan for raising taxes. As a matter of fact, the biggest single tax increase in the nation's history took place in 1977, and for the five years previous to our taking office, taxes doubled in the United States and the budget's increased $318 billion, so there is no ratio between taxing and balancing a budget. Whether you borrow the money or whether you simply tax it away from the people, you're taking the same amount of money out of the private sector unless and until you bring down Government's share of what it is taking. With regard to Social Security I hope there'll be more time than just this win it - minute - to mention that, but I will say this: A President should never say never. But I'm going to violate that rule and say ''never.'' I will never stand for a reduction of the Social Security benefits to the people that are now getting them.
(15:26) MODERATOR: Mr. Mondale. MONDALE: That's exactly the commitment that was made to the American people in 1980. He would never reduce benefits. And of course what happens right after the election is they proposed to cut Social Security benefits by 25 percent, reducing the adjustment for inflation, cutting out minimum benefits for the poorest on Social Security, removing educational benefits for dependents whose widows were trying, with widows trying to get them through college. Everybody remembers that. People know what happened. There's a difference. I have fought for Social Security and Medicare and for things to help people who are vulnerable all my life, and I will do it as President of the United States. MODERATOR: Thank you very much. We will now begin with segment No. 2 with my colleague, Diane Sawyer. Miss Sawyer.
(16:21) REPORTER: Mr. President, Mr. Mondale. The public opinion polls do suggest that the American people are most concerned about the personal leadership characteristics of the two candidates, and each of you has questioned the other's leadership ability. Mr. President, you have said that Mr. Mondale's leadership would take the country down the path of defeatism and despair and Vice President Bush has called him whining and hoping for bad news. And Mr. Mondale, you have said that President Reagan offers showmanship, not leadership, that he has not mastered what he must know to command his Government. I'd like to ask each of you to substantiate your claims. Mr. Mondale first. Give us specifics to support your claim that President Reagan is a showman, not a leader, has not mastered what he must know to be President after four years, and then second, tell us what personal leadership characteristics you have that he does not. MONDALE: Well first of all, I think the first answer this evening suggests exactly what I'm saying. There is no question that we face this massive deficit. And almost everybody agrees unless we get it down the chances for long-term healthy growth are nil. And it's also unfair to dump these tremendous bills on our children. The President says it will disappear overnight because of some reason; no one else believes that's the case. I do and I'm standing up to the issue with an answer that's fair. I think that's what leadership is all about. There's a difference between being a quarterback and a cheerleader and when there's a real problem, a President must confront it. What I was referring to, of course, in the comment that you referred to, was the situation in Lebanon. Now, for three occasions, one after another, our Embassies were assaulted in the same way by a truck with demolition. The first time, and I did not criticize the President because these things can happen once, and sometimes twice, the second time the barracks in Lebanon were assaulted as we all remember. There was two or three commission reports, recommendations by the C.I.A., the State Department and the others, and the third time there was even a warning from the terrorists themselves. Now I believe that a President must command that White House and those who work for him. It's the toughest job on earth. And you must master the facts and insist that things must be done, are done. I believe the way in which I will approach the Presidency is what's needed. Because all my life that has been the way in which I have sought to lead. And that's why in this campaign I am telling you exactly what I want to do; I am answering your questions; I am trying to provide leadership now before the election so that the American people can participate in that decision.
(19:36) REPORTER: You have said, Mr. Mondale, that the polls have given you lower ratings on leadership than President Reagan because your message has failed to get through. Given that you have been in public office for so many years, what accounts for the failure of your message to get through? MONDALE: Well, I think we're getting better all the time, and I think tonight, as we contrast for the first time our different approach to government, to values, to the leadership in this country, I think as this debate goes forward, the American people will have, for the first time, a chance to weigh the two of us against each other. And I think as a process, as a part of that process, what I am trying to say will come across. And that is that we must lead, we must command, we must direct, and a President must see it like it is. He must stand for the values of decency that the American people stand for, and he must use the power of the White House to try to control these nuclear weapons and lead this world toward a safer world.
(20:44) REPORTER: Mr. President, the issue is leadership in personal terms. First, do you think, as Vice President Bush said, that Mr. Mondale's campaign is one of whining and hoping for bad news. And, second, what leadership characteristics do you possess that Mr. Mondale does not? REAGAN: Well, whether he does or not, let me suggest my own idea about the leadership factor, and since you've asked it. And incidentally, I might say that with regard to the 25 percent cuts of Social Security before I get to the answer of your question the only 25 percent cut that I know of was accompanying that huge 1977 tax increase was a cut of 25 percent in the benefits for every American who was born after 1916. Now, leadership. First of all, I think you must have some principles you believe in. In mine, I happen to believe in the people and believe that the people are supposed to be dominant in our society. That they, not government, are to have control of their own affairs to the greatest extent possible with an orderly society. Now, having that, I think also that in leadership, well, I believe that you find the people - positions such as I'm in - who have the talent and ability to do the things that are needed in the various departments of government. I don't believe that a leader should be spending his time in the Oval Office deciding who's going to play tennis on the White House court. And you let those people go with the guidelines of overall policy, and not looking over their shoulder and nitpicking the manner in which they go at the job. You are ultimately responsible, however, for that job. But I also believe something else about that. I believe that - and when I became Governor of California I started this and I continue it in this office - that any issue that comes before me I have instructed Cabinet members and staff they are not to bring up any of the political ramifications that might surround the issue. I don't want to hear them. I want to hear only arguments as to whether it is good or bad for the people. Is it morally right. And on that basis, and that basis alone, we make a decision on every issue. Now, with regard to my feeling about why I thought that his record bespoke his possible taking us back to the same things that we knew under the previous Administration, his record is that he spoke in praise of deficits several times. Said they weren't to be abhorred. That as a matter of fact he at one time said he wished the deficit could be doubled because they stimulate the economy and help reduce unemployment.
(23:37) REPORTER: As a follow-up, let me draw in another specific if I could, a specific that the Democrats have claimed about your campaign; that it is essentially based on imagery. And one specific that they allege is that, for instance, that recently you showed up at the opening ceremony of a Buffalo old age housing project when in fact your policy was to cut Federal housing subsidies for the elderly, yet you were there to have your picture taken with them. REAGAN: Our policy was not to cut subsidies. We have believed in partnership and that was an example of a partnership between not only local government and the Federal Government but also between the private sector that built that particular structure. And this is what we've been trying to do is involve the Federal Government in such partnerships. We are today subsidizing housing for more than 10 million people, and we're going to continue along that line. We have no thought of throwing people out into the snow, whether because of age or need. We have preserved the safety net for the people with true need in this country and it has been pure demagoguery that we have in some way shut off all the charitable programs or many of them for the people who have real need. The safety net is there and we're taking care of more people than has ever been taken care of before by any administration in this country.
(25:05) MODERATOR: Mr. Mondale - an opportunity for you to rebut. MONDALE: Well, I guess I'm reminded a little bit of what Will Rogers once said about Hoover. He said it's not what he doesn't know that bothers me, it's what he knows for sure just ain't so. The fact of it is, the fact of it is the President's budget sought to cut Social Security by 25 percent. It's not an opinion; it's a fact, and when the President was asked the other day, 'What do you want to cut in the budget?' he said, 'Cut those things I asked for but didn't get.' That's Social Security and Medicare. The second fact is that the housing unit for senior citizens that the President dedicated in Buffalo was only made possible through a Federal assistance program for senior citizens that the President's budget sought to terminate. So if he'd had his way, there wouldn't have been any housing project there at all. This Administration has taken a meat cleaver out in terms of Federal-assisted housing, and the record is there. We have to see the facts before we can draw conclusions. REAGAN: Well, let me just respond with regard to Social Security. When we took office we discovered that the program that the Carter- Mondale Administration had said would solve the fiscal problems of Social Security for the next 50 years, wouldn't solve them for 5. Social Security was due to go bankrupt before 1983. Any proposals that I made at that time were at the request of the chairman, a Democrat, of one of the leading committees, who said we have to do something before the program goes broke and the checks bounce. And so we made a proposal. And then in 1982 they used that proposal in a demagogic fashion for the 1982 campaign. And three days after the election in 1982 they came to us and said, Social Security, we know, is broke. Indeed, we had to borrow $17 billion to pay the checks. And then I asked for a bipartisan commission, which I'd asked for from the beginning, to sit down and work out a solution, and so the whole matter of what to do with Social Security has been resolved by bipartisan legislation and it is on a sound basis now for as far as you can see into the next century. MODERATOR: We begin segment No. 3 with Fred Barnes.
(27:35) REPORTER: Mr. President, would you describe your religious beliefs, noting particularly whether you consider yourself a born-again Christian and explain how these beliefs affect your Presidential decisions? REAGAN: Well, I was raised to have a faith and a belief and have been a member of a church since I was a small boy. In our particular church we didn't use that term born- again so I don't know whether I would fit that - that particular term. But I have, thanks to my mother, God rest her soul, the firmest possible belief and faith in God. And I don't believe - I believe, I should say, as Lincoln once said, that I could not - I would be the most stupid man in the world if I thought I could confront the duties of the office I hold if I could not turn to someone who was stronger and greater than all others; and I do resort to prayer. At the same time, however, I have not believed that prayer could be introduced into an election or be a part of a political campaign, or religion a part of that campaign. As a matter of fact I think religion became a part of this campaign when Mr. Mondale's running mate said I wasn't a good Christian. So, it does play a part in my life. I have no hesitancy in saying so. And as I say, I don't believe that I could carry on unless I had a belief in a higher authority and a belief that prayers are answered.
(29:21) REPORTER: Given those beliefs, Mr. President, why don't you attend services regularly, either by going to church or by inviting a minister to the White House, as President Nixon used to do, or someone to Camp David, as President Carter used to do. REAGAN: The answer to your question is very simple - about why I don't go to church. I start - I have gone to church regularly all my life. And I started to here in Washington. And now, in the position I hold and in the world in which we live, where embassies do get blown up in Beirut, we're supposed to talk about that in the - on the debate the 21st, I understand. But I pose a threat to several hundred people if I go to church. I know the threats that are made against me. We all know the possibility of terrorism. We have seen the barricades that have had to built around the White House. And therefore, I don't feel - and my minister knows this and supports me in this position. I don't feel that I have a right to go to church, knowing that my being there could cause something of the kind that we have seen in other places; in Beirut, for example. And I miss going to church but I think the Lord understands. MODERATOR: May I ask the audience please to refrain from applause. Can we have your second question?
(30:43) REPORTER: Mr. Mondale, would you describe your religious beliefs and mention whether you consider yourself a born-again Christian and explain how those beliefs would affect your decisions as President. MONDALE: First of all, I accept President Reagan's affirmation of faith. I'm sure that we all accept and admire his commitment to his faith and we are strengthened all of us by that fact. I am a son of a Methodist minister, my wife is the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, and I don't know if I've been born again, but I know I was born into a Christian family, and I believe I've sung at more weddings and more funerals than anybody ever to seek the Presidency. Whether that helps or not I don't know. I have a deep religious faith, our family does, it is fundamental, it's probably the reason I'm in politics. I think our faith tells us, instructs us about the moral life that we should lead, and I think we're all together on that. What bothers me is this growing tendency to try to use one's own personal interpretation of faith politically, to question others' faith, and to try to use instrumentalities of government to impose those views on others. All history tells us that that's a mistake. When the Republican platform says that from here on out we're going to have a religious test for judges before they're selected for the Federal court and then Jerry Falwell announces that that means they get at least two Justices of the Supreme Court, I think that's an abuse of faith in our country. This nation is the most religious nation on earth. More people go to church and synagogues than any other nation on earth, and it's because we kept the politicians and the state out of the personal exercise of our faith. That's why faith in the United States is pure and unpolluted by the intervention of politicians, and I think if we want to continue as I do to have a religious nation, let's keep that line and never cross it. MODERATOR: Thank you. Mr. Barnes, a question? We have time for rebuttal now. REPORTER: I think I have a follow-up. MODERATOR: Yes, I asked you if you did. I'm sorry I thought you waived it.
(33:39) REPORTER: Yes. Mr. Mondale, you've complained just now about Jerry Falwell, and you've complained other times about other fundamentalists in politics. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall your ever complaining about ministers who are involved in the civil rights movement, in the anti- Vietnam War demonstrations or about black preachers who've been so involved in American politics. Is it only conservative ministers that you object to? MONDALE: No. What I object to - what I object to - what I object to is someone seeking to use his faith to question the faith of another or to use that faith and seek to use the power of Government to impose it on others. A minister who is in civil rights or in the conservative movement because he believes his faith instructs him to do that, I admire. The fact that the faith speaks to us and that we are moral people hopefully I accept and rejoice in. It's when you try to use that to undermine the integrity of private political - or private religious faith and the use of the state is where for the most personal decisions in American life - that's where I draw the line.
(34:58) MODERATOR: Thank you. Now, Mr. President. Rebuttal. REAGAN: Yes, it's very difficult to rebut, because I find myself in so much agreement with Mr. Mondale. I, too, want that wall that is in the Constitution, separation of church and state, to remain there. The only attacks I have made are on people who apparently would break away at that wall from the Government side using the Government, using the power of the courts and so forth, to hinder that part of the Constitution that says the Government shall not only not establish a religion, it shall not inhibit the practice of religion, and they have been using these things to have Government, through court orders, inhibit the practice of religion. A child wants to say grace in a school cafeteria, and a court rules that they can't do it. And because it's school property. These are the types of things that I think have been happening in a kind of a secular way that have been erroding that separation, and I am opposed to that. With regard to a platform in the Supreme Court, I can only say one thing about that. I don't - I have appointed one member of the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O'Connor, I'll stand on my record on that, and if I have the opportunity to appoint any more. I'll do it in the same manner that I did in selecting her.
(36:17) MODERATOR: Mr. Mondale, your rebuttal, please. MONDALE: The platform to which the President refers in fact calls for a religious test in the selection of judges. And Jerry Falwell says that means we get two or three judges. And it would involve a religious test for the first time in American life. Let's take the example that the President cites. I believe in prayer. My family prays. We've never had any difficulty finding time to pray. But do we want a constitutional amendment adopted of the kind proposed by the President that gets the local politicians into the business of selecting prayers that our children must either recite in school or be embarrassed and ask to excuse themselves? Who would write the prayer? What would it say? How would it be resolved when those disputes occurred? It seems to me that a moment's reflection tells you why the United States Senate turned that amendment down. Because it will undermine the practice of honest faith in our country by politicizing it. We don't want that. MODERATOR: Thank you Mr. Mondale. MODERATOR: Thank you, Mr. Mondale. Time is up for this round; we go into the second round of our questioning - begin again with Jim Wieghart. Jim.
(37:42) REPORTER: After that discussion, this may be like going from the sublime to the ridiculous, but here goes: I have a political question for you, Mr. Mondale. Polls indicate a massive change in the electorate, away from the coalition that has long made the Democratic Party a majority. Blue- collar workers, young professionals, their children and much of the middle class now regard themselves as independents or Republican instead of Democrats. And the gap, the edge the Democrats had in party registration, seems to be narrowing. I'd like to ask you, Mr. Mondale, what is causing this? Is the Democratic Party out of synch with the majority of Americans? And will it soon be replaced as the majority party by the Republicans? What do you think needs to be done about as a Democrat? MONDALE: My answer is that this campaign isn't over yet. And when people vote, I think you're going to see a very strong verdict by the American people that they favor the approach that I'm talking about. The American people want arms control; they don't want this arms race. And they don't want this deadly new effort to bring weapons into the heavens. And they want an American foreign policy that leads toward a safer world. The American people see this debt, and they know it's got to come down. And if it won't come down, the economy's going to slow down, maybe go into a recession. They see this tremendous influx and swamping of cheap foreign imports in this country that has cost over three million jobs, given farmers the worst year in American history. And they know this debt must come down, as well, because it's unfair to our children. The American people want this environment protected. They know that these toxic waste dumps should have been cleaned up a long time ago. And they know that people's lives and health are being risked because we've had an Administration that has been totally insensitive to the law and the demands for the protection of the environment. The American people want their children educated; they want to get our edge back in science, and they want a policy, headed by the President, that helps close this gap that's widening between the United States and Europe and Japan. The American people want to keep opening doors. They want those civil rights laws enforced; they want the equal rights amendment ratified; they want equal pay for comparable effort for women. And they want it because they've understood from the beginning that when we open doors, we're all stronger. Just as we were at the Olympics. I think as you make the case, the American people will increasingly come to our cause.
(40:56) REPORTER: Mr. Mondale, isn't it possible that the American people have heard your message and they are listening but they are rejecting it? MONDALE: Well, tonight we had the first debate over the deficit. The President says it will disappear automatically. I've said it's going to take some work. I think the American people will draw their own conclusions. Secondly, I've said that I will not support the cuts in Social Security and Medicare and the rest that the President's proposed. The President answers that it didn't happen or if it did, it was resolved later in a commission. As the record develops I think it's going to become increasingly clear that what I am saying and where I want to take this country is exactly where the country wants to go, and the comparison of approaches is such that I think will lead to further strength.
(41:52) REPORTER: Mr. President, you and your party are benefiting from what appears to be an erosion of the old Democratic coalition, but you have not laid out a specific agenda to take this shift beyond Nov. 6. What is your program for America for the next decade, with some specificity? REAGAN: Well, again, I am running on the record. I think sometimes Mr. Mondale's running away from his, but I'm running on the record of what we have asked for, will continue to try and get things that we didn't get in the program that has already brought the rate of spending of Government down from 17 percent to 6.1 percent, a program of returning authority and autonomy to the local and state governments that has been unjustly seized by the Federal Government and you might find those words in the Democratic platform of some years ago. I know because I was a Democrat at that time. And I left the party eventually because I could no longer follow the turn in the Democratic leadership that took us down an entirely different path, a path of centralizing authority in the Federal Government, lacking trust in the American people. I promised when we took office that we would reduce inflation. We have, to one-third of what it was. I promised that we would reduce taxes. We did, 25 percent across the board. That barely held even with - if it did that much - with the gigantic tax increase imposed in 1977. But at least it took that burden away from them. I said that we would create jobs for our people, and we did, six million in the last 20 or 21 months. I said that we would become respected in the world once again and that we would refurbish our national defense to the place that we could deal on the world scene and then seek disarmaments, reduction of arms, and hopefully an elimination of nuclear weapons. We have done that. All of the things that I said we would do, from inflation being down, interest rates being down, unemployment falling - all of those things we have done. And I think this is something the American people see. I think they also know that we have. We had a commission that came in a year ago with a recommendation on education, on excellence in education, and today without the Federal Government being involved other than passing on to them, the school districts, the words from that commission, we find 35 states with task forces now dealing with their educational problems, we find that schools are extending the curriculum to now have forced teaching of mathematics and science and so forth. All of these things have brought an improvement in the college entrance exams for the first time in some 20 years. So I think that many Democrats are seeing the same thing this Democrat saw. The leadership isn't taking us where we want to go.
(45:06) REPORTER: Mr. President, there's a - much of what you said affects the quality of life of many Americans - their income, the way they live and so forth. But there's an aspect to quality of life that lies beyond the private sector which has to do with our neighborhoods, with our cities, our streets, our parks our environment. In those areas I have a difficulty seeing what your program is and what you feel the Federal responsibility is in these areas of the quality of life in the public sector that affects everybody. And even enormous wealth by one individual can't create the kind of environment that he might like. REAGAN: There are tasks that Government legitimately should enforce and tasks that Government performs well, and you've named some of them. Crime has come down the last two years for the first time in many, many decades that it has come down or, since we kept records, two consecutive years, and last year it came down - the biggest drop in crime that we've had. I think that we've had something to do with that, just as we have with the drug problem nationwide. The environment, yes, I feel as strongly as anyone about the preservation of the environment. When we took office we found that the national parks were so dirty and contained so many hazards, lack of safety features that we stopped buying additional parkland until we had rectified this with what was to be a five-year program, but it's just about finished already - a billion dollars - and now we're going back to budgeting for additional lands for our parks. We have added millions of acres to the wilderness lands, to the game refuges. I think that we're out in front of most, and I see that the red light is blinking so I can't continue but I got more.
(47:00) MODERATOR: Well, you'll have a chance when your rebuttal time comes up perhaps, Mr. President. Mr. Mondale, now it's your turn for rebuttal. MONDALE: The President says that when the Democratic Party made its turn he left it. The year that he decided we had lost our way was the year that John F. Kennedy was running against Richard Nixon. I was chairman of Minnesotans for Kennedy. Reagan was chairman of a thing called Democrats for Nixon. Now maybe we made a wrong turn with Kennedy, but I'll be proud of supporting him all of our life - all of my life. And I'm very happy that John Kennedy was elected, because John Kennedy looked at the future with courage, saw what needed to be done, and understood his own Government. The President just said that his Government is shrinking. It's not. It's now the largest peacetime Government ever in terms of the take from the total economy and instead of retreating, instead of being strong where we should be strong, he wants to make it strong and intervene in the most private and personal questions in American life. That's where Government should not be.
(48:17) MODERATOR: Mr. President. REAGAN: Before I campaigned as a Democrat for a Republican candidate for President, I had already voted for Dwight Eisenhower to be President of the United States so my change had come earlier than that. I hadn't gotten around to re-registering as yet. I found that was rather difficult to do but I finally did it. There are some other things that have been said here, back - and you said that I might be able to dredge them up. Mr. Mondale referred to the farmer's worst year. The farmers are not the victims of anything this Administration has done. The farmers were the victims of the double-digit inflation and the 21 1/2 percent interest rates of the Carter-Mondale Administration and the grain embargo which destroyed our reliability nation-wide as a supplier. All of these things are presently being rectified and I think that we are going to salvage the farmers - as a matter of fact, the - there has been less than one-quarter of 1 percent of foreclosures of the 270,000 loans from government the farmers have. MODERATOR: Thank you, Mr. President. We'll now turn to Diane Sawyer for her round of questions. Diane.
(49:33) REPORTER: I'd like to turn to an area that I think few people enjoy discussing. But that we probably should tonight because the positions of the two candidates are so clearly different and lead to very different policy consequences. And that is abortion and right to life. I'm exploring for your personal views of abortion. And specifically how you would want them applied as public policy. First, Mr. President, do you consider abortion murder or a sin? And second, how hard would you work, what kind of priority would you give in your second term legislation to make abortion illegal? And specifically, would you make certain, as your party platform urges, that Federal justices that you appoint be pro- life? REAGAN: I have believed that, in the appointment of judges, that all that was specified in the party platform was that they have a, they respect the sanctity of human life. Now that, I would want to see in any judge, and with regard to any issue having to do with human life. But with regard to abortion, and I have a feeling that this is, there's been some reference, without naming it here in remarks of Mr. Mondale, tied to injecting religion into government. With me, abortion is not a problem of religion. It's a problem of the Constitution. I believe that until and unless someone can establish that the unborn child is not a living human being, then that child is already protected by the Constitution, which guarantees life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to all of us. And I think that this is - what we should concentrate on, is trying - I know there was weeks and weeks of testimony before a Senate committee. There were medical authorities, there were religious, there were clerics there, everyone talking about this matter, of pro-life. And at the end of all of that, not one shred of evidence was introduced that the unborn child was not alive. We have seen premature births that- are now grown up happy people going around. Also there is a strange dichotomy in this whole position about our court's ruling that abortion is not the taking of a human life. In California, some time ago, a man beat a woman so savagely that her unborn child was born dead with a fractured skull. And the California state legislature unanimously passed a law that was signed by the then Democratic Governor, signed a law that said that any man who so abuses a pregnant woman that he causes the death of her unborn child shall be charged with murder. Now isn't it strange that that same woman could have taken the life of her unborn child and it was abortion and not murder but if somebody else does it, that's murder. And it recognizes, it used the term death of the unborn child. So this has been my feeling about abortion, that we have a problem now to determine. And all the evidence so far comes down on the side of the unborn child being a living human being.
(52:55) REPORTER: A two-part follow-up. Do I take it from what you've said about the platform, then, that you don't regard the language and don't regard in your own appointments' abortion position a test of any kind for justices that it should be? And also, if abortion is made illegal, how would you want it enforced? Who would be the policing units that would investigate? And would you want the women who have abortions to be prosecuted? REAGAN: The laws regarding that always were state laws. It was only when the Supreme Court handed down a decision that the Federal Government intervened in what had always been a state policy. Our laws against murder are state laws. So I would think this would be the point of enforcement on this. I, as I say, I feel that we have a problem here to resolve, and no one has approached it from that matter. It does not happen that the church I belong to had that as part of its dogma; I know that some churches do. Now, it is a sin if you're taking a human life. On the same time in our Judeo-Christian tradition, we recognize the right of taking a human life in self-defense. And therefore I've always believed that a mother, if medically it is determined that her life is at risk if she goes through with the pregnancy, she has a right then to take the life of even her own unborn child in defense of her own.
(54:31) REPORTER: Mr. Mondale, to turn to you, do you consider abortion a murder or a sin? And bridging from what President Reagan said, he has written that if society doesn't know whether life does - human life - in fact does begin at conception, as long as there is a doubt, that the unborn child should at least be given the benefit of the doubt and that there should be protection for that unborn child. MONDALE: This is one of the most emotional and difficult issues that could possibly be debated. I think your questions, however, underscore the fact there is probably no way that Government should, or could, answer this question in every individual case and in the private lives of the American people. The Constitutional Amendment proposed by President Reagan would make it a crime for a woman to have an abortion if she had been raped or suffered from incest. Is it really the view of the American people, however you feel on the question of abortion, that Government ought to be reaching into your livingrooms and making choices like this? I think it cannot work, won't work and will lead to all kinds of cynical evasions of the law. Those who can afford to have them will continue to have them. The disadvantaged will go out in the back alley as they used to do. I think these questions are inherently personal and moral. And every individual instance is different. Every American should be aware of the seriousness of the step but there are some things that Government can do and some things they cannot do. Now the example that the President cites has nothing to do with abortion. Somebody went to a woman and nearly killed her. That's always been a serious crime and always should be a serious crime. But how does that compare with the problem of a woman who is raped? Do we really want those decisions made by judges who've been picked because they will agree to find the person guilty? I don't think so and I think it's going in exactly the wrong direction. In America, on basic moral questions we have always let the people decide in their own personal lives. We haven't felt so insecure that we've reached for the club of state to have our point of view. It's been a good instinct and we're the most religious people on earth. One final point: President Reagan, as Governor of California, signed a bill which is perhaps the most liberal pro-abortion bill of any state in the Union.
(57:35) REPORTER: But if I can get you back for a moment on my point which was the question of when human life begins, a two-part follow-up. First of all, at what point do you believe that human life begins in the growth of a fetus? And second of all, you said that government shouldn't be involved in the decision, yet there are those who would say that government is involved and the consequence of the involvement was 1.5 million abortions in 1980. And how do you feel about that? MONDALE: The basic decision of the Supreme Court is that each person has to make this judgment in her own life, and that's the way it's been done. And it's a personal and private moral judgment. I don't know the answer to when life begins. And it's not that simple either. You've got another life involved. And if it's rape, how do you draw moral judgments on that? If it's incest, how do you draw moral judgments on that? Does every woman in America have to present herself before some judge picked by Jerry Falwell to clear her personal judgment? It won't work.
(58:50) MODERATOR: I'm sorry to do this but I really must talk to the audience. You're all invited guests. I know I'm wasting time in talking to you but it really is very unfair of you to applaud sometimes louder, less loud, and I ask you as people who were invited here and polite people to refrain. We have our time now for rebuttal. Mr. President. REAGAN: Yes. But with regard to this being a personal choice, isn't that what a murderer is insisting on? His or her right to kill someone because of whatever fault they think justifies that. Now, I'm not capable and I don't think you are, any of us, to make this determination that must be made with regard to human life. I am simply saying that I believe that that's where the effort should be directed to make that determination. I don't think that any of us should be called upon here to stand and make a decision as to what other things might come under the self-defense tradition. That, too, would have to be worked out then when you once recognize that we're talking about a life. But in this great society of ours wouldn't it make a lot more sense, in this gentle and kind society, if we had a program that made it possible for when incidents come along which someone feels they must do away with that unborn child, that instead we make it available to the adoption, there are a million-and-a-half people out there standing in line waiting to adopt children who can't have them any other way.
(1:00:19) MODERATOR: Mr. Mondale? MONDALE: I agree with that, and that's why I was a principal sponsor of a liberal adoption law so that more of these children could come to term so that the young mothers were educated, so we found an option, an alternative. I'm all for that. But the question is whether this other option proposed by the President should be pursued, and I don't agree with it. Since I've got about 20 seconds, let me just say one thing.