President Reagan gives a news conference – September 28, 1982. His first in two months. Questions, as always, centered on the Economy, but also questions regarding the situation in Beirut and U.S. relations with Israel. The topic of the upcoming off-year elections was also high on the agenda:
Economic Recovery Program and 1982 Elections
Q. Mr. President, in the upcoming November election, how much of that do you see as a referendum on your Presidency and on your economic programs? And if Republicans don’t do well in those elections, how might you modify the economic programs?
President Reagan. Well, first of all, you have to abide a little bit by tradition, that in that first off-year election of any new administration, normally there is a great setback. Now, our opponents are saying that they would hope to achieve 20 additional seats. Now, I think they’re saying that because tradition has it that normally they get about 35 or 36, and so they would like to be able to say, “Oh, look how much better we did than we thought we were going to do.” Well, all I can tell you is we’re going to do our best to see if we can’t disappoint them. John [John Palmer, NBC News]?
Situation in Lebanon
Q. Mr. President, do you have a plan for getting the United States out of Lebanon if fighting should break out there, or could the marine presence there lead to another long entanglement such as Vietnam?
President Reagan. No, I don’t see anything of that kind taking place there at all. And the marines are going in there, into a situation with a definite understanding as to what we’re supposed to do. I believe that we are going to be successful in seeing the other foreign forces leave Lebanon. And then as such time as Lebanon says that they have the situation well in hand, why, we’ll depart.
Q. Sir, if fighting should break out again, would you pull the marines out?
President Reagan. You’re asking a hypothetical question, and I’ve found out that I never get in trouble if I don’t answer one of those.
Sam [Sam Donaldson, ABC News]?
Economic Recovery Program
Q. Mr. President, in talking about the continuing recession tonight, you have blamed mistakes of the past, and you’ve blamed the Congress. Does any of the blame belong to you?
The President. Yes, because for many years I was a Democrat. [Laughter]
Q. But does any of the blame for the past 18 months? The Democrats in Congress say they gave you your tax program, they gave you almost all the budget cuts you want. You predicted that the very psychological passage of these programs would cause the economy to start up, but it hasn’t.
The President. Well, I believe that all the indices that have been true in the other several recessions are there and are evident. For 4 quarters we have seen a growth in the gross national product. We have seen for the first time in several years an increase in real earnings for the people, because of our battle against inflation and, as I’ve said, the interest rates coming down to where they are. I recall when we started that we were told by experts that inflation was built into the economy and would take at least a decade to get control of it.
The only thing that has kept on progressing is the thing, as I say, started and has been going on over several years, which is the unemployment situation. Now, we know from history that is the last to recover.
But I think we are in, you could call it, a curve or at the corner, going around the corner or the curve, by every indice, the evidence that we are, that we are progressing and on our way out of this. And some 44 blue-chip economists, who get together and pool all of their information and their knowledge as to what is going to happen, have said that they see a solid recovery in the year 1983.
Q. I’d like to ask you a busing question, Mr. President. The Justice Department has said that it’s considering asking the courts to dismantle mandatory court-ordered busing in St. Louis and several other cities across the Nation. Were you consulted in advance about this decision, and do you agree with it?
The President. Well, this is no change in policy. It’s been presented that way, Jerry. There’s no change in policy at all. What the Justice Department has said is that in those areas where there has been court-ordered busing, if the community is seeking to have that changed in court, on a case-by-case basis, depending on the circumstances, the Justice Department would join the community in going into court on that case. But again I say on a case-to-case basis in which there would be—the Justice Department would decide that the community’s case was well taken.
And the above is just a sample of the 36+ minute press conference, as it was carried live on September 28, 1982 via CBS Radio. Click on the player and hear the entire press conference.