Bush: 'I just know how to go about it better'
What do you sense Republican voters are looking for this year? Relief from inflation and strength in foreign affairs. Why do you feel you are the right candidate for the party in 1980?
Because I'm the only candidate who's had any practical experience in foreign affairs . . . the only one that built a business. I think I've got a mix of experience -- mix of Congress and education and economics and private sector emphasis that comes together with experience in foreign affairs.
And my views -- I believe in emphasis of the fundamentals of economics and strength in foreign policies without threatening. I just think I know how to go about it better and I'm getting better able to convince people of this.
With your experience in foreign affairs, would you be doing anything different in Iran and Afghanistan?
If you had asked me, "Would you have donem something different?" I think the answer is clearly yes. Today I'm supporting the President on Iran. I think he's going to escalate, on the economic side, sanctions and pressure on Iran, and I'll support that if he does that. In Afghanistan, [President Carter] failed to spell out commitments to allies, [failed] to recognize that his foreign policy has been flawed in not keeping commitments and to assure countries like Pakistan and the moderate Arab states that we're going to support them, that we want them to remain free of Soviet aggression, and that we're going to do whatever is necessary in order to do this.
I don't think he [Carter] put it in proper perspective. I think he always stops short of really facing up to what the problem is. The fundamental problem in foreign affairs today is the Soviet Union and what its intentions are. There was the great theory in the '60s that the Soviet Union, driven by inferiority, wanted to get equal and once it got equal there would be relaxation of tensions. That theory, in my judgment, is no longer valid. . . . The evidence points to the fact that they seek, not parity, but superiority. If you accept that view -- and I do -- then you have to have a foreign policy not that's going to threaten or go one-up on them on everything, but that will recognize that as their intention and respond by keeping commitments, redefining our policy on human rights (not to pull away from it, but to recognize as Carter doesn't that sometimes you're making a selection in support for allies between not good and evil but between varying degrees of imperfection).
You can't have a foreign policy that doesn't recognize our strategic interests. I believe Carter's has been a naive foreign policy in terms of the strategic interest.
What was missing on Afghanistan was a redefinition of a policy that will keep commitments, strengthen intelligence, and redefine the human rights thing so we don't always end up with less human rights and less strategic interest.
What should the US do to make its commitments really creditable abroad -- reinstitute the draft?
I'm not sure that manpower is the problem. . . . It's more a posture than it is the need for conventional standing army. Everybody says, "Oh, we're in trobule over there in Pakistan.You mean you're going to send in troops?" That's kind of the last vestiges of our post- Vietnam syndrome -- which we're coming out of, incidentally. I voted for the volunteer Army. [But] we might have to got to a draft, and if we do it's going to be a fair-play draft. Not any exemption for a rich kid to get his PhD, and the poor kid gets the rifle.
I really don't believe that where this lack of creditability stems from is the concept that the US doesn't have enough standing army. It's a tough issue in domestic politics, but it's going to be less tough five years from now, or three years from now. . . . This gets philosophical: I happen to be an optimist about our country because I don't see us trending -- as a result of Vietnam, Watergate, and Jimmy Carter's presidency -- trending the wrong way. I say there's a confluence of three things that come together that are going to be an anomaly in the course of history: Vietnam, Watergate, and the election of a president who -- no matter how honorable and decent and hardworking -- just wasn't prepared for the presidency. He had not had the experience with the federal legislature or in foreign affairs that a president must have.
The country now wakes up, we're getting over this post-Vietnam thing. Why? Because we've looked at Vietnam without us, and we see that it's not peace-loving. . . . We see that instead of being nice and unified and kind, they're brutalizing the ethnic Chinese. We see that they've taken over Laos and Cambodia and are threatening Thailand. This is . . . going to be much, much clearer in another year or two.
We're getting over Watergate. It was ugly. The lie was there. What it did to the civility of press vs. political and to [create] cynicism on the campuses was horrible. But we're getting over that. The elections can take care of the third thing.
Should we require Pakistan to follow our nuclear conditions in order to receive US aid?
I don't know that single-point diplomacy should drive the overall interests of our allies and ourselves. We cut off Pakistan on one issue -- nuclear; now we wake up and we want the Paks to deter Soviet aggression. And yet they're thinking, "Look, you've been pushing us around on one issue . . . and now you've coming and telling us, 'Get in and help us.'"
Would you assist China with arms?
No, we don't need to do that. I would resist doing that today. I don't view [the Chinese] as expansionistic today. I don't think they are doing what they accused the Soviets of doing, seeking hegemony everywhere. I see them as a backward country with a large standing army, not in the strategic or conventional force ball game with the Soviets, and really turned inward politically . . . their main objective being self-reliance by the year 2000. Terribly concerned now at what they see is overt Soviet aggression that they've been predicting all along. I don't think we should go the arms route with China right now.
You have spoken in favor of a firm foreign policy, but you're against a grain embargo.
Not if it's coupled with an overall embargo; then I'd be strongly for it.
But how would you be more firm than we are presently being on Afghanistan?
I told you what I would do on Afghanistan and I believe that's what's missing. I don't think getting 70,000 troops out of Afghanistan should be our first foreign policy goal. Containing further Soviet aggression and eventually mobilizing enough world pressure to back them out of there or enough resistance to back them out of there is the goal.
You have a degree in economics. What would you do about inflation?
I would publicly announce that the country no longer should adhere to Keynesian economics -- that we no longer should feel that if we just keep spending money we're going to solve the problems of society. I would make a strong appeal for a fundamental economic policy that would restrict the growth of federal spending. I want the budget to be in balance, but I want it to get there through limiting spending as a percent of gross national product rather than through a balanced budget amendment that will permit the budget to get in balance through raising taxes. Limit the growth of spending. You're going to have to hold the growth of spending at less than the rate of inflation.
I am for regulatory relief, finding a way to get a balance on regulation. I think we've gone too far. [For example], you can't mine coal, you can't shift utilities to coal. We've killed off a lot of our productivity by regulation.
[I favor] a supply side tax cut. I've stayed off of the Kemp-Roth across-the-board tax cut. But I believe that you're going to have to start moving away from the 20-22 percent gross national product taken in taxes back to 18 percent. The way you do that is to start with an investment-oriented tax cut. I don't think that would exasperate the deficit.
What would you cut in the federal budget?
Hold the growth of spending. You can grow. You don't have to cut a lot. Everybody talks about waste; I think the CETA program is a good place to start. . . . There are places where it hasn't worked. I would replace it with the kind of tax cut I'm talking about. Job-training credits, tax credits, rapid depreciation for investment by businesses near where high unemployment is. I don't support counter-cyclical revenue sharing. I support the concept of revenue sharing.
How effective could you be without substantial defense cuts?
[My] formula provides for $5-8 billion increase in defense spending. We're growing on the revenue side at a tremendous rate, at $46 billion more in taxes in 1979 than the year before.
I want go get in balance and then start lowering tax rates, but I don't want to do it before we get into balance.
Your remark about regulation. Were you referring also to environmental regulations?
Clean Air Act? Yes, I think a lot of those regulations should be reviewed. . . . For example, on coal scrubbers. The law calls for a certain amount of scrubbers for coal, whether it's clean coal or dirty coal, or whether it's soft coal, or sulfurous coal, or not. There are places I am told where you can get relief on something like the Clean Air Act -- still have clean air but be able to produce.
What would you do about the energy crisis?
I oppose strongly a 50-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax.
You decontrol, put on a windfall profits tax. But I want a plowback provision [to] keep companies from putting new-found profits into diversification. But say to them and to the 80 percent of the well drillers (which are independents), "Go out and find more oil and gas." Convert to other sources of energy, with government assistance for guaranteeing markets for synthetics or guaranteeing investment to produce synthetics; government assistance for research; implement the Kemeny commission's recommendations on nuclear. Go forward on conservation; government assistance for mass transit; regulatory relief in terms of certain kinds of energy sources -- coal being the main one I see; research on fusion; increase supply -- don't have a no-growth energy thing; utilization of the tax structure so that regional differences can be taken into consideration. In this area you have low-level hydro. Wood burning, solar application, co-generation.
And a foreign policy that would strengthen relations with our moderate Arab friends and improve relations in this hemisphere. But you don't do it by being insensitive to the culture of a country like Mexico. . . . You don't go down there as a big imperialist: "We want your oil, so let's have a North American consortium." We've got to be sensitive to their problems.