Reagan talks of teamwork, transition, hostages, and Moral Majority
Ronald Reagan, in his first press conference as President- elect of the United States, indicated: * That he would work with President Carter and Democrats in Congress on a smooth transition between the present administration and his own -- particularly in foreign affairs.
* That he would not flatly repudiate the support and influence of ultra-conservative and religious-oriented groups that contributed to his successful campaign.
* That he would translate his campaign promises into realities in adopting a legislative program that would hue to a conservative fiscal line.
Further, Mr. Reagan was reluctant to set forth his own ideas about resolution of the Iranian hostage crisis. He indicated that if President Carter seeks his help, he will be ready to offer it. But he added he would not interfere in the delicate negotiations over the 52 Americans that now are going on between Washington and Iranian authorities.
As to foreign policy during the transition period, the President-elect said "I don't want to do anything that indicates to them [the Soviet Union] that we are other than a unified nation." In answer to a question on SALT II, he added: "I don't think you simply sit down at a table and discuss arms limitation, but you discuss a whole attitude as to whether you're going to have a world of peace. . . . I believe in linkage."
Regarding the possible influence of the right-leaning Moral Majority and other evangelical groups on his appointments and policies, Reagan said: "I won't separate myself from the people who elected us and sent us here." However, he expressed full support for his running mate, Vice-President-elect George Bush, and for Tennessee Sen. Howard Baker, both of whom have been under fire since the election by leaders of such groups.
Reagan said of his relationship with Mr. Bush: "It is one of growing friendship. I want to make use of a very valuable asset." Of Mr. Baker, he flatly said, "He will be majority leader of the Senate."
Asked if he would keep his campaign vow to institute a federal hiring freeze after he takes office, Reagan said, "I will not retreat from that pledge." He hedged from a direct answer to whether he would abolish the federal departments of energy and education, as promised.
"I am well aware there are legitimate functions" in both departments, he said. And there was indication that he would keep such functions, but perhaps under some other structure.