REPORTER: After that discussion, this may be like going from the sublime to the ridiculous, but here goes: I have a political question for you, Mr. Mondale. Polls indicate a massive change in the electorate, away from the coalition that has long made the Democratic Party a majority. Blue- collar workers, young professionals, their children and much of the middle class now regard themselves as independents or Republican instead of Democrats. And the gap, the edge the Democrats had in party registration, seems to be narrowing. I'd like to ask you, Mr. Mondale, what is causing this? Is the Democratic Party out of synch with the majority of Americans? And will it soon be replaced as the majority party by the Republicans? What do you think needs to be done about as a Democrat?
MONDALE: My answer is that this campaign isn't over yet. And when people vote, I think you're going to see a very strong verdict by the American people that they favor the approach that I'm talking about. The American people want arms control; they don't want this arms race. And they don't want this deadly new effort to bring weapons into the heavens. And they want an American foreign policy that leads toward a safer world. The American people see this debt, and they know it's got to come down. And if it won't come down, the economy's going to slow down, maybe go into a recession. They see this tremendous influx and swamping of cheap foreign imports in this country that has cost over three million jobs, given farmers the worst year in American history. And they know this debt must come down, as well, because it's unfair to our children.
The American people want this environment protected. They know that these toxic waste dumps should have been cleaned up a long time ago. And they know that people's lives and health are being risked because we've had an Administration that has been totally insensitive to the law and the demands for the protection of the environment. The American people want their children educated; they want to get our edge back in science, and they want a policy, headed by the President, that helps close this gap that's widening between the United States and Europe and Japan. The American people want to keep opening doors. They want those civil rights laws enforced; they want the equal rights amendment ratified; they want equal pay for comparable effort for women. And they want it because they've understood from the beginning that when we open doors, we're all stronger. Just as we were at the Olympics. I think as you make the case, the American people will increasingly come to our cause.
REPORTER: Mr. Mondale, isn't it possible that the American people have heard your message and they are listening but they are rejecting it?
MONDALE: Well, tonight we had the first debate over the deficit. The President says it will disappear automatically. I've said it's going to take some work. I think the American people will draw their own conclusions. Secondly, I've said that I will not support the cuts in Social Security and Medicare and the rest that the President's proposed. The President answers that it didn't happen or if it did, it was resolved later in a commission. As the record develops I think it's going to become increasingly clear that what I am saying and where I want to take this country is exactly where the country wants to go, and the comparison of approaches is such that I think will lead to further strength.
REPORTER: Mr. President, you and your party are benefiting from what appears to be an erosion of the old Democratic coalition, but you have not laid out a specific agenda to take this shift beyond Nov. 6. What is your program for America for the next decade, with some specificity?
REAGAN: Well, again, I am running on the record. I think sometimes Mr. Mondale's running away from his, but I'm running on the record of what we have asked for, will continue to try and get things that we didn't get in the program that has already brought the rate of spending of Government down from 17 percent to 6.1 percent, a program of returning authority and autonomy to the local and state governments that has been unjustly seized by the Federal Government and you might find those words in the Democratic platform of some years ago. I know because I was a Democrat at that time. And I left the party eventually because I could no longer follow the turn in the Democratic leadership that took us down an entirely different path, a path of centralizing authority in the Federal Government, lacking trust in the American people. I promised when we took office that we would reduce inflation. We have, to one-third of what it was. I promised that we would reduce taxes. We did, 25 percent across the board. That barely held even with - if it did that much - with the gigantic tax increase imposed in 1977. But at least it took that burden away from them. I said that we would create jobs for our people, and we did, six million in the last 20 or 21 months. I said that we would become respected in the world once again and that we would refurbish our national defense to the place that we could deal on the world scene and then seek disarmaments, reduction of arms, and hopefully an elimination of nuclear weapons. We have done that. All of the things that I said we would do, from inflation being down, interest rates being down, unemployment falling - all of those things we have done. And I think this is something the American people see. I think they also know that we have. We had a commission that came in a year ago with a recommendation on education, on excellence in education, and today without the Federal Government being involved other than passing on to them, the school districts, the words from that commission, we find 35 states with task forces now dealing with their educational problems, we find that schools are extending the curriculum to now have forced teaching of mathematics and science and so forth. All of these things have brought an improvement in the college entrance exams for the first time in some 20 years. So I think that many Democrats are seeing the same thing this Democrat saw. The leadership isn't taking us where we want to go.
REPORTER: Mr. President, there's a - much of what you said affects the quality of life of many Americans - their income, the way they live and so forth. But there's an aspect to quality of life that lies beyond the private sector which has to do with our neighborhoods, with our cities, our streets, our parks our environment. In those areas I have a difficulty seeing what your program is and what you feel the Federal responsibility is in these areas of the quality of life in the public sector that affects everybody. And even enormous wealth by one individual can't create the kind of environment that he might like.
REAGAN: There are tasks that Government legitimately should enforce and tasks that Government performs well, and you've named some of them. Crime has come down the last two years for the first time in many, many decades that it has come down or, since we kept records, two consecutive years, and last year it came down - the biggest drop in crime that we've had. I think that we've had something to do with that, just as we have with the drug problem nationwide. The environment, yes, I feel as strongly as anyone about the preservation of the environment. When we took office we found that the national parks were so dirty and contained so many hazards, lack of safety features that we stopped buying additional parkland until we had rectified this with what was to be a five-year program, but it's just about finished already - a billion dollars - and now we're going back to budgeting for additional lands for our parks. We have added millions of acres to the wilderness lands, to the game refuges. I think that we're out in front of most, and I see that the red light is blinking so I can't continue but I got more.
MODERATOR: Well, you'll have a chance when your rebuttal time comes up perhaps, Mr. President. Mr. Mondale, now it's your turn for rebuttal.
MONDALE: The President says that when the Democratic Party made its turn he left it. The year that he decided we had lost our way was the year that John F. Kennedy was running against Richard Nixon. I was chairman of Minnesotans for Kennedy. Reagan was chairman of a thing called Democrats for Nixon. Now maybe we made a wrong turn with Kennedy, but I'll be proud of supporting him all of our life - all of my life. And I'm very happy that John Kennedy was elected, because John Kennedy looked at the future with courage, saw what needed to be done, and understood his own Government. The President just said that his Government is shrinking. It's not. It's now the largest peacetime Government ever in terms of the take from the total economy and instead of retreating, instead of being strong where we should be strong, he wants to make it strong and intervene in the most private and personal questions in American life. That's where Government should not be.
MODERATOR: Mr. President.
REAGAN: Before I campaigned as a Democrat for a Republican candidate for President, I had already voted for Dwight Eisenhower to be President of the United States so my change had come earlier than that. I hadn't gotten around to re-registering as yet. I found that was rather difficult to do but I finally did it. There are some other things that have been said here, back - and you said that I might be able to dredge them up. Mr. Mondale referred to the farmer's worst year. The farmers are not the victims of anything this Administration has done. The farmers were the victims of the double-digit inflation and the 21 1/2 percent interest rates of the Carter-Mondale Administration and the grain embargo which destroyed our reliability nation-wide as a supplier. All of these things are presently being rectified and I think that we are going to salvage the farmers - as a matter of fact, the - there has been less than one-quarter of 1 percent of foreclosures of the 270,000 loans from government the farmers have.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Mr. President. We'll now turn to Diane Sawyer for her round of questions. Diane.
REPORTER: I'd like to turn to an area that I think few people enjoy discussing. But that we probably should tonight because the positions of the two candidates are so clearly different and lead to very different policy consequences. And that is abortion and right to life. I'm exploring for your personal views of abortion. And specifically how you would want them applied as public policy. First, Mr. President, do you consider abortion murder or a sin? And second, how hard would you work, what kind of priority would you give in your second term legislation to make abortion illegal? And specifically, would you make certain, as your party platform urges, that Federal justices that you appoint be pro- life?
REAGAN: I have believed that, in the appointment of judges, that all that was specified in the party platform was that they have a, they respect the sanctity of human life. Now that, I would want to see in any judge, and with regard to any issue having to do with human life. But with regard to abortion, and I have a feeling that this is, there's been some reference, without naming it here in remarks of Mr. Mondale, tied to injecting religion into government. With me, abortion is not a problem of religion. It's a problem of the Constitution. I believe that until and unless someone can establish that the unborn child is not a living human being, then that child is already protected by the Constitution, which guarantees life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to all of us. And I think that this is - what we should concentrate on, is trying - I know there was weeks and weeks of testimony before a Senate committee. There were medical authorities, there were religious, there were clerics there, everyone talking about this matter, of pro-life. And at the end of all of that, not one shred of evidence was introduced that the unborn child was not alive. We have seen premature births that- are now grown up happy people going around. Also there is a strange dichotomy in this whole position about our court's ruling that abortion is not the taking of a human life. In California, some time ago, a man beat a woman so savagely that her unborn child was born dead with a fractured skull. And the California state legislature unanimously passed a law that was signed by the then Democratic Governor, signed a law that said that any man who so abuses a pregnant woman that he causes the death of her unborn child shall be charged with murder. Now isn't it strange that that same woman could have taken the life of her unborn child and it was abortion and not murder but if somebody else does it, that's murder. And it recognizes, it used the term death of the unborn child. So this has been my feeling about abortion, that we have a problem now to determine. And all the evidence so far comes down on the side of the unborn child being a living human being.
REPORTER: A two-part follow-up. Do I take it from what you've said about the platform, then, that you don't regard the language and don't regard in your own appointments' abortion position a test of any kind for justices that it should be? And also, if abortion is made illegal, how would you want it enforced? Who would be the policing units that would investigate? And would you want the women who have abortions to be prosecuted?
REAGAN: The laws regarding that always were state laws. It was only when the Supreme Court handed down a decision that the Federal Government intervened in what had always been a state policy. Our laws against murder are state laws. So I would think this would be the point of enforcement on this. I, as I say, I feel that we have a problem here to resolve, and no one has approached it from that matter. It does not happen that the church I belong to had that as part of its dogma; I know that some churches do. Now, it is a sin if you're taking a human life. On the same time in our Judeo-Christian tradition, we recognize the right of taking a human life in self-defense. And therefore I've always believed that a mother, if medically it is determined that her life is at risk if she goes through with the pregnancy, she has a right then to take the life of even her own unborn child in defense of her own.
REPORTER: Mr. Mondale, to turn to you, do you consider abortion a murder or a sin? And bridging from what President Reagan said, he has written that if society doesn't know whether life does - human life - in fact does begin at conception, as long as there is a doubt, that the unborn child should at least be given the benefit of the doubt and that there should be protection for that unborn child.
MONDALE: This is one of the most emotional and difficult issues that could possibly be debated. I think your questions, however, underscore the fact there is probably no way that Government should, or could, answer this question in every individual case and in the private lives of the American people. The Constitutional Amendment proposed by President Reagan would make it a crime for a woman to have an abortion if she had been raped or suffered from incest. Is it really the view of the American people, however you feel on the question of abortion, that Government ought to be reaching into your livingrooms and making choices like this? I think it cannot work, won't work and will lead to all kinds of cynical evasions of the law. Those who can afford to have them will continue to have them. The disadvantaged will go out in the back alley as they used to do. I think these questions are inherently personal and moral. And every individual instance is different. Every American should be aware of the seriousness of the step but there are some things that Government can do and some things they cannot do. Now the example that the President cites has nothing to do with abortion. Somebody went to a woman and nearly killed her. That's always been a serious crime and always should be a serious crime. But how does that compare with the problem of a woman who is raped? Do we really want those decisions made by judges who've been picked because they will agree to find the person guilty? I don't think so and I think it's going in exactly the wrong direction. In America, on basic moral questions we have always let the people decide in their own personal lives. We haven't felt so insecure that we've reached for the club of state to have our point of view. It's been a good instinct and we're the most religious people on earth. One final point: President Reagan, as Governor of California, signed a bill which is perhaps the most liberal pro-abortion bill of any state in the Union.
REPORTER: But if I can get you back for a moment on my point which was the question of when human life begins, a two-part follow-up. First of all, at what point do you believe that human life begins in the growth of a fetus? And second of all, you said that government shouldn't be involved in the decision, yet there are those who would say that government is involved and the consequence of the involvement was 1.5 million abortions in 1980. And how do you feel about that?
MONDALE: The basic decision of the Supreme Court is that each person has to make this judgment in her own life, and that's the way it's been done. And it's a personal and private moral judgment. I don't know the answer to when life begins. And it's not that simple either. You've got another life involved. And if it's rape, how do you draw moral judgments on that? If it's incest, how do you draw moral judgments on that? Does every woman in America have to present herself before some judge picked by Jerry Falwell to clear her personal judgment? It won't work.
MODERATOR: I'm sorry to do this but I really must talk to the audience. You're all invited guests. I know I'm wasting time in talking to you but it really is very unfair of you to applaud sometimes louder, less loud, and I ask you as people who were invited here and polite people to refrain. We have our time now for rebuttal. Mr. President.
REAGAN: Yes. But with regard to this being a personal choice, isn't that what a murderer is insisting on? His or her right to kill someone because of whatever fault they think justifies that. Now, I'm not capable and I don't think you are, any of us, to make this determination that must be made with regard to human life. I am simply saying that I believe that that's where the effort should be directed to make that determination. I don't think that any of us should be called upon here to stand and make a decision as to what other things might come under the self-defense tradition. That, too, would have to be worked out then when you once recognize that we're talking about a life. But in this great society of ours wouldn't it make a lot more sense, in this gentle and kind society, if we had a program that made it possible for when incidents come along which someone feels they must do away with that unborn child, that instead we make it available to the adoption, there are a million-and-a-half people out there standing in line waiting to adopt children who can't have them any other way.
MODERATOR: Mr. Mondale?
MONDALE: I agree with that, and that's why I was a principal sponsor of a liberal adoption law so that more of these children could come to term so that the young mothers were educated, so we found an option, an alternative. I'm all for that. But the question is whether this other option proposed by the President should be pursued, and I don't agree with it. Since I've got about 20 seconds, let me just say one thing. The question of agriculture came up a minute ago, and that farm income is off 50 percent in the last three years, and every farmer knows it, and the effect of these economic policies is like a massive grain embargo which has caused farm exports to drop 20 percent. It's been a big failure. I opposed the grain embargo in my Administration; I'm opposed to these policies as well.
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