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76-10-22pbs part 2

The First Carter-Ford Presidential Debate: September 23, 1976

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MS. WALTERS: Mr. Nelson to Governor Carter.

(0:17) MR. NELSON: Governor, you've said the Supreme Court of today is, as you put it, moving back in a proper direction in rulings that have limited the rights of criminal defendants. And you've compared the present Supreme Court under Chief Justice Burger very favorably with the more liberal court that we had under Chief Justice Warren. So exactly what are you getting at, and can you elaborate on the kind of court you think this country should have? And can you tell us the kind of qualifications and philosophy you would look for as president in making Supreme Court appointments? MR. CARTER: While I was governor of Georgia, although I'm not a lawyer, we had complete reform of the Georgia court system. We streamlined the structure of the court, put in administrative officers, put a unified court system in, required that all severe sentences be reviewed far uniformity. And, in addition to that put forward a proposal that was adopted and used throughout my own term of office of selection of - for all judges and district attorneys or prosecuting attorneys, on the basis of merit. Every time I had a vacancy on the Georgia Supreme Court - and I filled five of those vacancies out of seven total and about half the court of appeals judges, about 35 percent of the trial judges - I was given from an objective panel the five most highly qualified persons in Georgia. And from those five, I always chose the first one or second one. So merit selection of judges is the most important single criterion. And I would institute the same kind of procedure as president, not only in judicial appointments, but also in diplomatic appointments. Secondly, I think that the Burger Court has fairly well confirmed the major and - and most far-reaching and most controversial decisions of the Warren Court. Civil rights has been confirmed by the Burger Court, hasn't been reversed, and I don't think there's any inclination to reverse those basic decisions. The one-man, one-vote rule, which is a very important one that s- struck down the unwarranted influence in the legislature of parsley populated areas of - of the states. The right of indigent or very poor accused persons to legal counsel. I think the Burger Court has confirmed that basic and very controversial decision of the Warren Court. Also the - the protection of an arrested person against unwarranted persecution in trying to get a false confession. But now I think there have been a couple of instances where the Burger Court has made technical rulings where an obviously guilty person was later found to be guilty. And I think that in that case some of the more liberal members of the so-called Warren Court agreed with those decisions. But the only thing I have pointed out was, what I've just said, and that there was a need to clarify the technicalities so that you couldn't be forced to release a person who was obviously guilty just because of a - of a small technicality in the law. And - and that's a reversal of position uh by the Burger Court with which I do agree. MR. NELSON: Governor, I don't believe you ans- you answered my question though about the kinds of uh people you would be looking for the court, the type of philosophy you would be looking for if you were making appointments to the Supreme Court as president. MR. CARTER: Okay, I thought I answered it by saying that it would be on the basis of merit. Once the search and analysis procedure had been completed, and once I'm given a list of the five or seven or ten best qualified persons in the country, I would make a selection from among those persons. If the list was, in my opinion, fairly uniform, if there was no outstanding person, then I would undoubtedly choose someone who would most accurately reflect my own basic politi- political philosophy as best I could determine it. Which would be to continue the progress that has been made under the last two courts - the Warren Court and the Burger Court. I would also like to completely revise our criminal justice system - to do some of the things at the federal level in court reform that I've just described, as has been done in Georgia and other states. And then I would like to appoint people who would be interested in helping with that. I know that uh Chief Justice Burger is. He hasn't had help from the administration, from the Congress, to carry this out. The emphasis, I think, of the - of the court system should be to interpret the the Constitution and the laws equally between property protection and personal protection. But when there's a very narrow decision - which quite often there's one that reaches the Supreme Court - I think the choice should be with human rights. And that would be another factor that I would follow.

(4:58) MS. WALTERS: President Ford. MR. FORD: Well, I think the answer as to the kind of person that I would select is obvious. I had one opportunity to nominate an individual to the Supreme Court and I selected the Circuit Court of Appeals judge from Illinois, John Paul Stevens. I selected him because of his outstanding record as a Circuit Court of Appeals Judge, and I was very pleased that an overwhelming Democratic United States Senate, after going into his background, came to the conclusion that he was fit and should serve, and the vote in his behalf was overwhelming. So, I would say somebody in the format of Justice Stevens would be the kind of an individual that I would select in the future, as I did him in the past. I believe, however, a comment ought to be made about the direction of the Burger Court, vis-a-vis the court that preceded it. It seems to me that the Miranda case was a case that really made it very, very difficult for the police, the law enforcement people in this country to do what they could to make certain that the victim of a crime was protected and that those that commit crimes were properly handled and sent to jail. The Miranda case, the Burger Court is gradually changing, and I'm pleased to see that there are some steps being made by the Burger Court to modify the so-called Miranda decision. I might make a correction of what Governor Carter said, uh speaking of gun control, yes, it is true, I believe that the sale of Saturday Night S- Specials should be cut out, but he wants the registration of handguns. MS. WALTERS: Mr. Kraft.

(7:18) MR. KRAFT: Mr. President, the country is now in in something that your advisors call an economic pause. I think to most Americans that sounds like a - a antiseptic term for low growth, unemployment standstill at a high, high level, uhh - decline in take-home pay, lower factory earnings, more layoffs. Uh, isn't that a really rotten record and doesn't your administration bear most of the blame for it? MR. FORD: Well, Mr. Kraft, I violently disagree with your assessment. And I don't think the record justifies the conclusion that you come to. let me talk about the economic announcements that were made just this past week. Yes, it was announced that the GNP real growth in the third quarter was at 4 percent. But do you realize that over the last ten years that's a higher figure than the average growth during that ten-year period? Now it's lower than the nine-point-point-two percent growth in the first quarter, and it's lower than the uh 5 percent growth in the second quarter. But every economist - liberal, conservative that I'm familiar with - recognizes that in the fourth quarter of this year and in the fifth quar- the first quarter of next year that we'll have an increase in real GNP. But now let's talk about the pluses that came out this week. We had an 18 percent increase in housing starts. We had a substantial increase in new permits for housing. As a matter of fact, based on the announcement this week, there will be at an annual rate of a million, eight hundred and some thousand new houses built, which is a tremendous increase over last year and a substantial increase over the earlier part of this year. Now in addition, we had a very - some very good news in the reduction in the rate of inflation. And inflation hits everybody: those who are working and those who are on welfare. The rate of inflation, as announced just the other day, is under 5 percent; and the 4.4 percent that was indicated at the time of the 4 percent GNP was less than the 5.4 percent. It means that the American buyer is getting a better bargain today because inflation is less.

(10:12) MR. KRAFT: Mr. President, let me ask you this. there has been an increase in layoffs and that's something that bothers everybody because even people that have a job are afraid that they're going to be fired. Did you predict that layoff, that increase in layoffs? Didn't that take you by surprise? Hasn't the gov- hasn't your administration been surprised by this pause? in fact, haven't you not - haven't you been so obsessed with saving money that you didn't even push the government to spend funds that were allocated? MR. FORD: Mr. Kraft, I think the record can be put in this in this way, which is the way that I think satisfies most Americans. Since the depths of the recession, we have added four million jobs. Im- most importantly, consumer confidence as surveyed by the reputable organization at the University of Michigan is at the highest since 1972. In other words, there is a growing public confidence in the strength of this economy. And that means that there will be more industrial activity. It means that there will be a reduction in the uhh - unemployment. It means that there will be increased hires. It means that there will be increased employment. Now we've had this pause, but most economists, regardless of their political philosophy, indicate that this pause for a month or two was healthy, because we could not have honestly sustained a 9.2 percent rate of growth which we had in the first quarter of this year. Now, I'd like to point out as well that the United States' economic recovery from the recession of a year ago is well ahead of the economic recovery of any major free industrial nation in the world today. We're ahead of all of the Western European country. We're ahead of Japan. The United States is leading the free world out of the recession that was serious a year, year and a half ago. We're going to see unemployment going down, more jobs available, and the rate of inflation going down. And I think this is a record that the American people understand and will appreciate.

(12:49) MS. WALTERS: Governor Carter. MR. CARTER: With all due respect to President Ford, I think he ought to be ashamed of mentioning that statement, because we have the highest unemployment rate now than we had at any time between the Great Depression caused by Herbert Hoover and the time President Ford took office. We've got seven and a half million people out of jobs. Since he's been in office, two and a half million more American people have lost their jobs. In the last four months alone, five hundred thousand Americans have gone on the unemployment roll. In the last month, we've had a net loss of one hundred and sixty-three thousand jobs. Anybody who says that the inflation rate is in good shape now ought to talk to the housewives. One of the overwhelming results that I've seen in the polls is that people feel that you can't plan anymore. There's no way to make a prediction that my family might be able to own a home or to put my kid through college. Savings accounts are losing money instead of gaining money. Inflation is robbing us. Under the present administration - Nixon's and Ford's - we've had three times the inflation rate that we experienced under President Johnson and President Kennedy. The economic growth is less than half today what it was at the beginning of this year. And housing starts - he compares the housing starts with last year. I don't blame him, because in 1975 we had fewer housing starts in this country, fewer homes built, than any year since 1940. That's thirty-five years. And we've got a 35 percent unemployment rate in many areas of this country among construction workers. And Mr. Ford hasn't done anything about it. And I think this shows a callous indifference to the families that have suffered so much. He has vetoed bills passed by Congress within the congressional budget guidelines job opportunities for two million Americans. We'll never have a balanced budget, we'll never meet the needs of our people, we'll never control the inflationary spiral, as long as we have seven and a half or eight million people out of work, who are looking for jobs. And we've probably got two and a half more million people who are not looking for jobs any more, because they've given up hope. That is a very serious indictment of this administration. It's probably the worst one of all. MS. WALTERS: Mr. Maynard.

(15:07) MR. MAYNARD: Governor Carter, you entered this race against President Ford with a twenty-point lead or better in the polls. And now it appears that this campaign is headed for a photo finish. You've said how difficult it is to run against a sitting president. But Mr. Ford was just as much an incumbent in July when you were twenty points ahead as he is now. Can you tell us what caused the evaporation of that lead in your opinion? MR. CARTER: Well, that's not exactly an accurate description of what happened. When I was that far ahead, it was immediately following the Democratic Convention, and before the Republican Convention. At that time, 25 or 30 percent of the Reagan supporters said that they would not support President Ford. But as occurred at the end of the con- Democratic Convention, the Republican Party unified itself. And I think immediately following the Republican Convention, there was about a ten-point spread. I believe that to be accurate, I had 49 percent; President Ford, 39 percent. the polls are good indications of fluctuations, but they vary widely one from another. And the only poll I've ever followed is the one that you know, is taken on election day. I was in thirty primaries in the spring, and at first it was obvious that I didn't have any standing in the poll. As a matter of fact, I think when Gallup ran their first poll in December of 1975 they didn't put my name on the list. They had thirty-five people on the list. My name wasn't even there. And at the beginning of the year I had about 2 percent. So the polls to me are interesting, but they don't determine, you know, my hopes or - or my despair. I campaign among people. I've never depended on powerful political figures to put me in office. I have a direct relationship with hundreds of people around - hundreds of thousands around the country who actively campaign for me. In Georgia alone, for instance, I got 84 percent of the vote, and I think there were fourteen people in addition to myself on the ballot, and Governor Wallace had been very strong in Georgia. That's an overwhelming support from my own people who know me best. And today, we have about five hundred Georgians at their own expense - just working people who believe in me - spread around the country involved in the political campaign. So, the polls are interesting, but I don't know how to explain the fluctuation. I think a lot of it depends on current events - sometimes foreign affairs, sometimes domestic affairs. But I think our hold of support among those who are crucial to the election has been fairly steady. And my success in the primary season was, I think, notable for a newcomer, from someone who's from outside Washington, who - who never has been a part of the Washington establishment. And I think that we'll have good results on November the second for myself and I hope for the country.

(17:59) MS. WALTERS: President Ford, your response. MR. FORD: I think the increase and the prospects as far as I'm concerned and the I - less favorable prospects for Governor Carter, reflect that Governor Carter is inconsistent in many of the positions that he takes. He tends to distort on a number of occasions. just a moment ago, for example, he was indicating that in the 1950s, for example, unemployment was very low. He fails to point out that in the 1950s we were engaged in the war in Vietnam. We - I mean in Korea - we had three million five hundred thousand young men in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. That's not the way to end unemployment or to reduce unemployment. At the present time we're at peace. We have reduced the number of people in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines from three million, one hundred - three million, five hundred thousand to two mil- lion one hundred thousand. We are not at war. We have reduced the military manpower by a million four hundred thousand. If we had that many more people in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and Marines, our unemployment figure would be considerably less. But this administration doesn't believe the way to reduce unemployment is to go to war, or to increase the number of people in the military. So you cannot compare unemployment, as you sought to, with the present time with the 1950s, because the then administration had people in the military - they were at war, they were fighting overseas, and this administration has reduced the size of the military by a million four hundred thousand. They're in the civilian labor market and they're not fighting anywhere around the world today. MS. WALTERS: Thank you, gentlemen. This will complete our questioning for this debate. We don't have time for more questions and full answers. So now each candidate will be allowed up to four minutes for a closing statement. And at the original coin toss in Philadelphia a month ago it was determined that President Ford would make the first closing statement tonight. President Ford.

(20:34) MR. FORD: For twenty-five years I served in the Congress under five presidents. I saw them work, I saw them make very hard decisions. I didn't always agree with their decisions, whether they were Democratic or Republican presidents. For the last two years, I've been the president, and I have found from experience that it's much more difficult to make those decisions than it is to second-guess them. I became president at the time that the United States was in a very troubled time. We had inflation of over 12 percent, we were on the brink of the worst recession in the last forty years, we were still deeply involved in the problems of Vietnam. The American people had lost faith and trust and confidence in the presidency itself. That situation called for me to first put the United States on a steady course and to keep our keel well balanced, because we had to face the difficult problems that had all of a sudden hit America. I think most people know that I did not seek the presidency. But I am asking for your help and assistance to be president for the next four years. During this campaign we've seen a lot of television shows, a lot of bumper stickers, and a great many slogans of one kind or another. But those are not the things that count. What counts is, that the United States celebrated its 200th birthday on July fourth. As a result of that wonderful experience all over the United States, there is a new spirit in America. The American people are healed, are working together. The American people are moving again, and moving in the right direction. We have cut inflation by better than half. We have came out of the recession and we're well on the road to real prosperity in this country again. There has been a restoration of faith and confidence and trust in the presidency because I've been open, candid and forthright. I have never promised more than I could produce and I have produced everything that I promised. We are at peace. Not a single young American is fighting or dying on any foreign soil tonight. We have peace with freedom. I've been proud to be president of the United States during these very troubled times. I love America just as all of you love America. It would be the highest honor for me to have your support on November second and for you to say, "Jerry Ford, you've done a good job, keep on doing it." Thank you, and good night.

(24:24) MS. WALTERS: Thank you President Ford. Governor Carter. MR. CARTER: Thank you Barbara (barely audible). The major purpose of an election for president is to choose a leader. Someone who can analyze the depths of feeling in our country to set a standard for our people to follow, to inspire our people to reach for greatness, to correct our defects, to answer difficult questions, to bind ourselves together in a spirit of unity. I don't believe the present administration has done that. We have been discouraged and we've been alienated. Sometimes we've been embarrassed and sometimes we've been ashamed. Our people are out of work, and there's a sense of withdrawal. But our country is innately very strong. Mr. Ford is a good and decent man, but he's in - been in office now more than eight hundred days approaching almost as long as John Kennedy was in office. I'd like to ask the American people what, what's been accomplished. A lot remains to be done. My own background is different from his. I was a school board member, and a library board member. I served an a hospital authority. And I was in the state senate and I was governor and I'm an engineer, a Naval officer, a farmer, a businessman. And I believe we require someone who can work harmoniously with the Congress, who can work closely with the people of this country, and who can bring a new image and a new spirit to Washington. Our tax structure is a disgrace, it needs to be reformed. I was Governor of Georgia for four years. We never increased sales taxes or income tax or property tax. As a matter of fact, the year before I went out of office we gave a $50 million refund to the property taxpayers of Georgia. We spend six hundred dollars per person in this country - every man, woman and child - for health care. We still rank fifteenth among all the nations of the world in infant mortality. And our cancer rate is higher than any country in the world. We don't have good health care. We could have it. Employment ought to be restored to our people. We've become almost a welfare state. We spend now 700 percent more on unemployment compensation than we did eight years ago when the Republicans took over the White House. Our people wanna go back to work. Our education system can be improved. Secrecy ought to be stripped away from government and a maximum of personal privacy ought to be maintained. Our housing programs have gone bad. It used to be that the average family could own a house. But now less than a third of our people can afford to buy their own homes. The budget was more grossly out of balance last year than ever before in the history of our country - $65 billion - primarily because our people are not at work. Inflation is robbing us, as we've already discussed, and the government bureaucracy is just a horrible mess. This doesn't have to be. Now I don't know all the answers. Nobody could. But I do know that if the president of the United States and the Congress of the United States and the people of the United States said, "I believe our nation is greater than what we are now." I believe that if we are inspired, if we can achieve a degree of unity, if we can set our goals high enough and work toward recognized goals with industry and labor and agriculture along with government at all levels, then we can achieve great things. We might have to do it slowly. There are no magic answers to do it. But I believe together we can make great progress. We can correct our difficult mistakes and answer those very tough questions. I believe in the greatness of our country, and I believe the American people are ready for a change in Washington. We've been drifting too long. We've been dormant too long. We've been discouraged too long. And we have not set an example for our own people. But I believe that we can now establish in the White House a good relationship with Congress, a good relationship with our people, set very high goals for our country. And with inspiration and hard work we can achieve great things. And let the world know - that's very important. But more importantly, let the people in our own country realize that we still live in the greatest nation on earth. Thank you very much. MS. WALTERS: Thank you, Governor Carter, and thank you, President Ford. I also would like to thank the audience and my three colleagues - Mr. Kraft, Mr. Maynard and Mr. Nelson - who have been our questioners. This debate has, of course, been seen by millions of Americans and, in addition, tonight is being broadcast to one hundred and thirteen nations throughout the world. This concludes the 1976 presidential debates, a truly remarkable exercise in democracy, for this is the first time in sixteen years that the presidential candidates have debated. It is the first time ever that an incumbent president has debated his challenger. And the debate included the first between the two vice presidential candidates. President Ford and Governor Carter, we not only want to thank you, but we commend you for agreeing to come together to discuss the issues before the American people. And our special thanks to the League of Women Voters for making these events possible. In sponsoring these events, the League of Women Voters Education Fund has tried to provide you with the information that you will need to choose wisely. The election is now only eleven days off. The candidates have participated in presenting their views in three ninety-minute debates, and now it's up to the voters, now it is up to you, to participate. The League urges all registered voters to vote on November second for the candidate of your choice. And now, from Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall an the campus of the College of William and Mary, this is Barbara Walters wishing you all a good evening.