an interview; Anderson on Anderson
Four years ago, Jimmy Carter was telling us he could make government work. Yet obviously he has had his problems. Do you think you could make government work? And if so, how?
I believe I can make government work. I understand our system, I think. I think I can identify the critical issues. I think I would have the ability to stimulate the enthusiasm and inspire the kind of confidence that after all has to be the foundation of any successful effort in any democratic system like ours.
You can't drive people, you cannot compel people to do things that they don't understand, that they don't appreciate, that they really don't wnat to do. It's got to be done on the basis of inspiring confidence and cooperation. And I believe that in those areas my experience would be much more valid than that of a former governor, whether his state is California or Georgia -- that my experience has been germane to the kind of problems in this very peculiar system we have.
Jimmy Carter at least has a Democratic Congress to work with. But wouldn't you, as an independent, be alone? How would you get your ideas enacted into legislation?
No, I would not be all alone. I would be surrounded by the most able aggregation of individuals ever to come to Washington -- Democrats, Republicans, independents staffing the agencies, manning the cabinet posts, all of them selected under the banner of the Anderson national unity campaign.
And I think, in that spirit, the Congress would be willing to lay aside normal, partisan jousting and rivalries and concentrate on the problems at hand. Because that election of an independent would send a very dramatic signal to them that this is what the American people want.
What are you offering that is so important and unique that voters should take the chance of wasting their ballots by voting for you?
You never waste a vote in a democracy when you vote for somebody you think is better than any of the other candidates on the ballot, because the very essence of democracy is freedom of choice. And the question suggests that a better basis is the basis on which a majority of the Democrats said they voted in California the other day -- the lesser of two evils. So I think you should dispel the illusion that you ever waste a vote when you vote for somebody who you really think should hold that office.
But what do you have to offer that should cause people to vote for you?
For the first time since I can remember, you're going to elect a President who is not going to be concentrating on the goal of his own renomination and re-election.
I would be committed to serve a single term, if necessary, simply to lay down the foundations of the kind of policies that this country is going to have to pursue, not over the short-term electoral cycle of a single Congress of two years, or even a single presidential term. I would be committed to provide long-term, long-range vision, and with it not just vision but concrete plans on how we deal with energy, how wer deal with our economy, how we deal with the problem of repairing our present disadvantage in world markets because of our inability to compete.
All of those are very much long-range problems. And we have not had in recent years a President who is willing to look beyond one or two terms to that broader, future expanse that you have to survey if you're going to find solutions to problems that, some of them, may not be upon us until the year 2000 . But if this generation, if the next President, doesn't try to at least come to grips with some of those problems, he's going to saddle some successor downt the road with an emergency instead of a manageable problem. So I am committed to preventive government, to try to prevent some of the disasters that seem to be periodically overtaking us.
Would you feel comfortable if you wake up the day after the election to find that your presence on the ticket has been the "difference" in defeating Carter and electing Reagan?
Of course.Because the American people will have made the choice in the polling booth. And if I give them a choice, and they choose not to vote for me but to elect Mr. Reagan, I accept that. But what would realy make me sorry would be to wake up on the morning of the 5th of November and find out Mr. Reagan was elected and I hadn't even been on the ballot, and people might have had another choice and another result might have been effected.
You are not concerned, then, if you should happen to warp this election one way or the other?
I resist, and I resent, and I reject the idea that participating in the democratic process as an independent candidate is warping the process. What is sacred about the monopolistic grip of two parties? They weren't even mentioned in state election laws until about 1980. was largely after that time that they began to write the kind of election laws that are clearly tailored to preserve their grip on the party machinery in the various states of the union and to keep independents off the ballot. They weren't mentioned in the Constitution. The nominating process is not sanctioned by anything other than something that has grown up in this country which, I think, has now served up two presumptive nominees that are intolerable, or at least unacceptable, to the majority of the American people.
So instead of warping the political process, I believe that I am going to address the attention of the country to what has gone wrong with the nominating process.I am not attacking the two parties. They will survive. But I do think the nominating process has gone wrong.
What if your presence in the race throws it into the House of Representatives? Could you possibly winn if that occurs?
Nobody can say at this point, because i'm told that a shift of 14 seats or so in the house, depending on the states where those shifts occur, could totally change the present structure in the House as far as the control of state delegations is concerned. I don't think it will be decided in the House.
I would like to cite several major problems and ask you to provide brief summaries of your solutions: first, the Middle East.
I've always said i would not recognize the PLO unless they renounced terrorism and accepted all the provisions of UN Resolution 242, the right of Israel to exist as a free and independent state within secure and defined borders. I would push as hard as I could to get those Israelis and Egyptians back at the bargaining table so that they could continue the autonomy negotiations and work out the interim solution for the next five years that hopefully would then evolve into a permanent solution as other reasonable, moderate elements in the Mideast joined those talks.
But I frankly think the atmosphere is so poisoned by violence that anyone who sits down and says they have a formula for a quick solution to the Middle East isn't leveling with you or the American people?
What about our hostages in Iran?
We can only use diplomatic and economic sanctions, I believe. This solution in Iran is unraveling so quickly. And there is sol little discernible real government with which to deal in that country that I think patience and diplomacy are the only weapons. And they must be directed not only to the release of the hostages but certainly to the broader consideration of keeping Iran out of the Soviet orbit.
How would you deal with the Cuban refugees?
I've just visited a Haitian processing center and a Cuban processing center in Miami. So I feel a little more deeply about these problems now than before.
I believe we should continue to accept immigrants. My father was one. I do think we need a review of the present immigration law. The global quota of 280, 000, I think, has been bypassed by changed circumstances around the world. I think we have to carefully craft a new policy, and a very intensive overview of present policy ought to be factored into any decision that we make.
And the future of SALT II?
I agree with Cyrus Vance. And I think that smart politics makes bad policy. It may be smart politics to denounce SALT II after what the Soviets did in Afghanistan. But I have studied the SALT agreement. I think the modest gains -- and they are only modest gains that it offers -- would nevertheless be less destabilizing than a descent back into the total environment of cold war and no effort at arms control.
Do we need a military buildup?
We do need it in many, many different areas. Congress, in recent years, always wants to cut the money for operating and maintenance, readiness funds. I would be in favor of looking very closely at how well prepared we are to defend our vital interests with conventional forces.
I would favor some modernization of strategic forces, but not the MX missile.
What would you do about inflation, jobs, interest rates? Would you ever consider a wage-price freeze?
I said that a wage-price freeze would be a possibility only if, in the entire second quarter, we had an accelerated inflation rate beyond that which we had in the first quarter -- which came out at about 16 percent. It seems to be abating. If that follows through for the next month, so we end the second quarter with an inflation rate down below that 16 percent level. I would not be for a freeze.
I have talked about the necessity of an income policy to restrain cost-push inflation that will now assert itself in the economy. And i also believe that you have to have a budget policy and not rely solely and exclusively, as this administration did for too long, on higher interest rates to choke off growth in the economy, to stem inflation at the cost of millions of jobs.
What would you do beyond your well-known proposal for a 50-cent gasoline tax?
A far more extensive use of the proceeds of the $227 billion excess, or windfall, profits tax to promote accelerated development of alternative forms of energy -- plus, I think, more positive moves to encourage conservation.
What do you say to those people who say they want a President who will restore the US to world leadership, who complain that they are tired of being pushed around and embarrassed? Would you be a "macho" President?
I would not. I think Teddy Roosevelt had it right when he said, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." I would favor selective improvements in our defense capabilities, as I have already indicated. But I do think that we should substitute quiet diplomacy for the noisy unilateral proclamations of the Carter administration and to concentrate on improving the economic strength of this country. We are in a state of decline economically, clearly linked to the perception of this country abroad by friend and foe alike as a weaker country than it once was. I can't emphasize enough the strong priority I would put on reinforcing and rebuilding the economic base of our country.
You mentioned Teddy Roosevelt. As President, would you use the 'bully pulpit' to get things done?
I would, indeed. And consistently. Where the President has failed is, he takes a boat trip in August and tootles up and down the Mississippi and talks about the windfall profits tax -- and then you don't hear anything about energy for another three or four months. You know, a President has to reiterate time and time again what his program is if he's going to get the attention of the Congress and the American people. This president has been lacking in consistency.
Would you describe how much your religion enters into your life?
I come from a very conservative religious tradition which emphasizes the salvation of the individual. But my religion, which I have related publicly many timeS, is an intensely personal matter and i would not seek to intrude any religious views on my administration or on the way I tried to govern a pluralistic, secular country.
We don't elect a national priest, a national rabbi, or a national minister. We elect a head of state and of government. And I think we have to be scrupulous in maintaining that separation between church and state.
What in your experience could you cite that would indicate you are decisive -- and that you would make a decisive President?
It's hard out of a career of 20 years to pick out actions I have taken that would show i woudl be decisive. I did decide the day after I heard the Nixon tapes that the time had come for me to call publicly for his resignation. It didn't take me too long to decide that rather important question.
Were you the first?
Yes, the first Republican in the House to call for Nixon's resignation.
What's wrong with Jimmy Carter?
Good. Decent. honest. Moralistic. But, I think, an inability to put policy above politics. Awfully good at politics, but terrible, I think, at charting with any vision and then pursuing with any consistency any long-term policy goals.
But isn't President dealing with terribly complex, difficult problems that might elude being solved by any President, including yourself?
If we make that abject confession or admission, then our system has failed -- then the genius of the Founding Fathers that has served us well for two centuries is somehow inappropriate and we ought to substitute some other form of government. I don't believe that. I think one man can make a difference. Not alone. It will lie in his stability to summon the energies of the American people and a recalcitrant Congress that has been called a standing insurrection since the time of Jefferson. But I think it takes a kind of experience. And he [Carter] came out of an environment that was ill-suited to really deal on a daily basis with the kind of complexities that you referred to in your question.
Is it possible that we need some new approaches in order to make our government work better -- perhaps by adopting a variation of the parliamentary system?
I don't want to go so far as to say that we should adopt the parliamentary system. We would have had too many governments fall -- like the Italians, with 38 governments in 42 years, if we were to do that. But I also believe that to deny that reforms in government are needed is to deny the obvious. Yes, we do have to look for ways to reform the present system. And I would be considering those.
How about our present way of selecting our party presidential nominees: any recommendations from you for changes?
My whole race is a challenge to the nominating process. When the counsel for the Democratic committee can attempt to justify spending one-quarter of a million dollar just to keep me off the ballot in the name of defending the integrity of the direct primary system, he's defending somethin that has failed the American people, demonstrably failed them, in the selection of two nominees as unpopular, I think, as both Reagan and Carter are.
So, yes, I think some substitute for the present crazy- quilt patter of state primaries, with states vying with each other to be first on the calendar. Surely we could make some reforms in that direction -- at least substitute regional for individual state primaries.
How do you explain why Democratic liberals now are turning to you in sizable numbers? What do you have to offer them?
I think a broadly humanistic approach to problems and a conception of government as not being what Mr. Reagan says, simply, passively, standing there as an arbiter to protect us one from each other, but government as an instrumentality that can function effectively and creatively as a problem-solver to provide the catalytic agent that is needed -- in the energy field, for example. We don't have the luxury of the time that we had when we made the conversion from wind and sail to coal, and from coal to oil -- and now we must go from oil and gas to alternative forms of energy. Government has to be a catalytic agent. It has to accelerate the process, because the dangers are too obvious and too great. And that, I think, is what has attracted many of the so-called liberals in this country -- that activist model of what government should be.
What have you against Ronald Reagan becoming President?
Personally, I think he is one of the most affable, charming men on the American political scene. i do fear he is a man who, because of his age, because of his experience, because of his basic philosophy, is simply not attuned to the futre. He's a man who's got his eyes on the rear-view mirror. He is dreaming of the restoration of the glories and the grandeurs that were once ours, and he doesn't have any really clear idea of how he can translate his experience into the kind of effective leadership and problem-solving that is needed for the future.
What sort of person are you looking for in a running mate?
I would like to see a person who, by virtue of training and experience and inclination, would be able to increasingly absorb and carry out a far more meaningful role, particularly in domestic policy. I would want a person who would broadly share my goals for the country. I wouldn't expect total conformity, but someone who has the same, general philosophy about government.
Have you anybody in mind -- or a list of possible running mates?
No. Not until I qualify on the ballots will I go to any man or woman and say , 'Here are states where we will win 270 electoral votes -- now run with me.' I've got to be able to promise them that to get the kind of person I want. I could get a lost of people. But I want someone who would fit that description.
Are you absolutely committed now to making the presidential race?
Not until the ballot phase is ended do we make a decision in the sense of total and absolute finality. But it would be fair to say that every experience that I've had in six weeks now as an independent candidate has only served to increase my fervor and enthusiasm and belief that we will, and can, be ultimately successful in reaching our goal.
Do you really think you could make a difference in the presidency -- that you could put your stamp on the administration and move the nation visibly forward?
If I didn't believe that, I would have no business running for president. This is not an ego trip. This is not an exercise in personal vanity.You don't make the sacrifices of time and energy and separation from family; you don't endure the slings and arrows of those who disagree with you and who play the kind of hardball that is typical of American presidential politics unless you have a very deep commitment and belief in yourself and in the things that you stand for -- and in the belief that you can realize those things.