The subject matter of this debate is open, covering all issues and topics. Our questioners tonight are Joseph Kraft, syndicated columnist; Robert Maynard, editorial writer for the Washington Post; and Jack Nelson, Washington bureau chief of the Los Angeles Times. The ground rules tonight are as follows: Questioners will alternate questions between the candidates. The candidate has up to two and one-half minutes to answer the question. The other candidate has up to two minutes to respond. If necessary, a questioner may ask a follow-up question for further clarification, and in that case the candidate has up to two minutes to respond. As was initially agreed to by both candidates, the answers should be responsive to the particular questions. Finally, each candidate has up to three minutes for a closing statement. President Ford and Governor Carter do not have prepared notes or comments with them this evening, but they may make notes and refer to them during the debate. It has been determined that President Ford would take the first question in this last debate, and Mr. Kraft, you have that first question for President Ford.
MR. KRAFT: Mr. President, I assume that the Americans all know that these are difficult times and that there's no "pie in the sky" and that they don't expect something for nothing. so, I'd like to ask you as a first question as you look ahead in the next four years, what sacrifices are you going to call on the American people to make, what price are you going to ask them to pay to realize your objectives? let me add, Governor Carter, that if - if you felt that it was appropriate to answer that question in - in your comments as to what price it would be appropriate for the American pay - people to pay for a Carter administration, I think that would be proper too. Mr. President?
MR. FORD: Mr. Kraft, I believe that the American people, in the next four years under a Ford administration, will be called upon to make those necessary sacrifices to preserve the peace which we have. Which means, of course, that we will have to maintain an adequate military capability - which means, of course, that we will have to add a I think a few billion dollars to our defense appropriations to make certain that we have adequate strategic forces - adequate conventional forces. I think the American people will be called upon to be in the forefront in giving leadership to the solution of those problems that must be solved in the Middle East, in southern Africa, and any problems that might arise in the Pacific. The American people will be called upon to tighten their belts a bit in meeting some of the problems that we face domestically. I don't think that America can go on a big spending spree with a whole lot of new programs that would add significantly to the federal budget. I believe that the American people, if given the leadership that I would expect to give, would be willing to give this thrust to preserve the peace and the necessary restraint at home to hold the lid on spending so that we could, I think, have a long overdue and totally justified tax decrease for the middle-income people. And then, with the economy that would be generated from a restraint on spending, and a tax uh reduction primarily for the middle-income people, then I think the American people would be willing to make those sacrifices for peace and prosperity in the next four years.
MR. KRAFT: Could I be a little bit more specific, Mr. President?
MR. FORD: Surely, surely, overlapping. Doesn't your policy really imply that we're going to have a fairly high rate of unemployment over a fairly long time, that growth is gonna be fairly slow, and that we're not gonna be able to do much - very much in the next four or five years to meet the basic agenda of our national needs in the cities, in health, uh in transit and a whole lot of things like that.
MR. KRAFT: Not at all. overlapping, aren't those the real costs?
MR. FORD: No, Mr. Kraft, we're spending very significant amounts of money now, some $200 billion a year, almost 50 percent of our total federal expenditure by the federal government at the present time for human needs. Now we will probably need to increase that to same extent. But we don't have to have - growth in spending that will blow the lid off and add to the problems of inflation. I believe we can meet the problems within the cities of this country and still give a tax reduction. I proposed, as you know, a reduction to increase the personal exemption from seven hundred and fifty to a thousand dollars. With the fiscal program that I have, and if you look at the projections, it shows that we will reduce unemployment, that we will continue to win the battle against inflation, and at the same time give the kind of quality of life that I believe is possible in America. a job, a home for all those that'll work and save for it, safety in the streets, health that is a - health care that is affordable. These things can be done if we have the right vision and the right restraint and the right leadership.
MS. WALTERS: Thank you. Governor Carter, your response please.
MR. CARTER: Well I might say first of all that I think in case of the Carter administration the sacrifices would be much less. Mr. Ford's own environmental agency has projected a 10 percent unemployment rate by 1978 if he's president. The American people are ready to make sacrifices if they are part of the process. If they know that they will be helping to make decisions and won't be excluded from being an involved party to the national purpose. The major effort we must put forward is to put our people back to work. And I think that this is one example where a lot of people have selfish, grasping ideas now. I remember 1973 in the depth of the energy crisis when President Nixon called on the American people to make a sacrifice, to cut down on the waste of gasoline, to cut down on the speed of automobiles. It was a - a tremendous surge of patriotism, that "I want to make a sacrifice for my country." I think we could call together, with strong leadership in the White House, business, industry and labor, and say let's have voluntary price restraints. Let's lay down some guidelines so we don't have continuing inflation. We can also have a- an end to the extremes. We now have one extreme for instance, of some welfare recipients, who by taking advantage of the welfare laws, the housing laws, the Medicaid laws, and the food stamp laws, make over $10 thousand a year and they don't have to pay any taxes on it. At the other extreme, just 1 percent of the richest people in our country derive 25 percent of all the tax benefits. So both those extremes grasp for advantage and the person who has to pay that expense is the middle-income family who's still working for a living and they have to pay for the rich who have privilege, and for the poor who are not working. But I think a balanced approach, with everybody being part of it and a striving for unselfishness, could help as it did in 1973 to let people sacrifice for their own country. I know I'm ready for it. I think the American people are too.
MS. WALTERS: Thank you. Mr. Maynard, your question for Governor Carter.
MR. MAYNARD: Governor, by all indications, the voters are so turned off by this election campaign so far that only half intend to vote. One major reason for this apathetic electorate appears to be the low level at which this campaign has been conducted. It has digressed frequently from important issues into allegations of blunder and brainwashing and fixations on lust and Playboy. What responsibility do you accept for the low level of this campaign for the nation's highest office?
MR. CARTER: I think the major reason for a decrease in participation that we have experienced ever since 1960 has been the deep discouragement of the American people about the performance of public officials. When you've got seven and a half, eight million people out of work, and you've got three times as much inflation as you had during the last eight-year Democratic administration, when you have the highest deficits in history; when you have it becoming increasingly difficult far a family to put a child through college or to own a home, there's a natural inclination to be turned off. Also, in the aftermath of Vietnam and Cambodia and Watergate and the CIA revelations, people have feel - have felt that they've uh been betrayed by public officials, I have to admit that in the heat of the campaign - I've been in thirty primaries during the springtime, I've been campaigning for twenty-two months - I've made some mistakes. And I think this is part of of just being a human being. I - I have to say that my campaign has been an open one. And the Playboy thing has been of great - very great concern to me. I don't know how to deal with it exactly. I agreed to give the interview to Playboy Other people have done it who are notable - Governor Jerry Brown, Walter Cronkite, Albert Schweitzer, Mr. Ford's own secretary of the treasury, Mr. Simon, William Buckley - many other people. But they weren't running for president, and in retrospect, from hindsight, I would not have given that interview had I do it - had it - I to do it over again. If I should ever decide in the future to discuss my - my deep Christian beliefs and condemnation and sinfulness, I'll use another forum besides Playboy. But I can say this, I'm doing the best I can to get away from that, and during the next ten days, the American people will not see the Carter campaign running television advertisements and newspaper advertisements based on a personal attack on President Ford's character. I believe that the opposite is true with President Ford's campaign, and I hope that we can leave those issues in this next ten days about personalities and mistakes of the past - we've both made some mistakes - and talk about unemployment, inflation, housing, education, taxation, government organization, stripping away of secrecy, and the things that are crucial to the American people. I regret the things in my own long campaign that have been mistaken, but I'm trying to do away with those the last ten days.
MS. WALTERS: Thank you, Governor Carter. President Ford, your response.
MR. FORD: I believe that the American people have been turned off in this election, Mr. Maynard, for a variety of reasons. We have seen on Capitol Hill, in the Congress, a great many allegations of wrong-doing, of alleged immorality, those are very disturbing to the American people. They wonder how an elected representative can serve them and participate in such activities serving in the Congress of the United States. Yes, and I'm certain many, many Americans were turned off by the revelations of Watergate, a very, very bad period of time in American political history. Yes, and thousands, maybe millions of Americans were turned off because of the problems that came out of our involvement in Vietnam. But on the other hand, I found on July fourth of this year, a new spirit born in America. We were celebrating our Bicentennial; and I find that there is a - a movement as I travel around the country of greater interest in this campaign. Now, like any hardworking person seeking public office in the campaign, inevitably sometimes you will use rather graphic language and I'm guilty of that just like I think most others in the political arena. But I do make a pledge that in the next ten days when we're asking the American people to make one of the most important decisions in their lifetime, because I think this election is one of the mast vital in the history of America, that we do together what we can to stimulate voter participation.
MS. WALTERS: Thank you, President Ford. Mr. Nelson, your question to President Ford.
MR. NELSON: Mr. President, you mentioned Watergate, and you became president because of Watergate, so don't you owe the American people a special obligation to explain in detail your role of limiting one of the original investigations of Watergate, that was the one by the House Banking Committee? And, I know you've answered questions on this before, but there are questions that still remain and I think people want to know what your role was. Will you name the persons you talked to in connection with that investigation, and since you say you have no recollection of talking to anyone from the White House, would you be willing to open for examination the White House tapes of conversations during that period?
MR. FORD: Well, Mr. Nelson, I testified before two committees, House and Senate, on precisely the questions that you have asked. And the testimony under oath was to the effect that I did not talk to Mr. Nixon, to Mr. Haldeman, to Mr. Ehrlichman, or to any of the people at the White House. I said I had no recollection whatsoever of talking with any of the White House legislative liaison people. I indicated under oath that the initiative that I took was at the request of the ranking members of the House Banking and Currency Committee on the Republican side, which was a legitimate request and a proper response by me. Now that was gone into by two congressional committees, and following that investigation, both committees overwhelmingly approved me, and the House and the Senate did likewise. Now, in the meantime, the special prosecutor, within the last few days, after an investigation himself, said there was no reason for him to get involved because he found nothing that would justify it. And then just a day or two ago, the attorney general of the United States made a further investigation and came to precisely the same conclusion. Now, after all of those investigations by objective, responsible people, I think the matter is closed once and for all. But to add one other feature, I don't control any of the tapes. Those tapes are in the jurisdiction of the courts and I have no right to say "yes" or "no." But all the committees, the attorney general, the special prosecutor, all of them have given me a clean bill of health. I think the matter is settled once and for all.
MR. NELSON: Well, Mr. President, if I do say so though, the question is that I think that you still have not gone into details about what your role in it was. And I don't think there is any question about whether or not there was criminal prosecution, but whether - whether you have told the American people your entire involvement in it. And whether you would be willing, even if you don't control the tapes, whether you would be willing to ask that the tapes be released for examination.
MR. FORD: That's for the proper authorities who have control over those tapes to make that decision. I have given every bit of evidence, answered every question that's as- been asked me by any senator or any member of the House. Plus the fact, that the special prosecutor, on his own initiation, and the attorney general on his initiation, the highest law enforcement official in this country, all of them have given me a clean bill of health. And I've told everything I know about it. I think the matter is settled once and for all.
MS. WALTERS: Governor Carter, your response.
MR. CARTER: I don't have a response.
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