Public Papers

Exchange With Reporters Following a Meeting With President Nicephore Soglo of Benin


The President. That's a very nice personal message, but I want to say with the journalists here that we are so respectful of everything you are trying to do there and the way you're going about it. I know you're here for a big honor, what we consider quite an honor on your visit here. But I'm just so pleased you found time to come by here and have a little visit. And so, not only thank you for the hospitality to our delegation, but I congratulate you on what you're doing there and the way in which you're going about it. I know it's not easy, but I think you're setting a great example for other countries as well in Africa.

Economic Growth Legislation

Q. Mr. President, I hope your guest will pardon the interruption, but have you decided what to do about a growth package yet?

The President. Well, we've got one out there, Brit [Brit Hume, ABC News], that I just wish the Congress had acted on long ago. And I'll keep reiterating it. But whether there will be additional steps, I don't know. If they had taken my five- or six-point growth package some time ago, why, I think it would have had a stimulatory effect. What I don't want to do is come up with a growth package that just further burdens the American taxpayer. And I'm not going to do that.

And so, some of these suggestions that shoot the long-term interest rates right out through the roof are simply unacceptable.

Budget Agreement

Q. Are you talking about what was in the budget, sir, is that correct?

The President. No, I'm talking about the idea of getting broad -- --

Q. -- -- your own package -- --

The President. -- -- tax cuts without regard as to what it does to long-term interest rates and the budget agreement, yes.

Q. But your own package is what was in the -- called for in the budget?

The President. Oh yes, and what we're talking about, about a transportation bill, about IRA's, about capital gains, about all kinds of stimulatory steps that can be taken without busting the budget agreement. But that's -- you're getting caught up in domestic politics now. [Laughter] But, if you'll excuse me -- --

Food Aid to the Soviet Union

Q. It looks like you're going to have a meeting in there -- --

The President. You're a little premature there, Jessica [Jessica Lee, USA Today], because we're going to be discussing that. We don't want anybody to starve. The United States has always tried to be of assistance when people are really, truly hurting. But there's certainly some constraints on what the United States can do right now because of our own budget problems. And so, we'll just have to wait and see what develops there.

Q. Will they have sufficient credit when they said today -- they made the announcement today that they don't have enough money to last the month.

The President. Well, that's a matter that technical people have to look at. And it is highly technical because it relates not just to the current state of play in the Soviet Union but to the credit of all the central banks, the so-called ``V banks.''

Q. ``V banks''?

Q. Will there be some announcements today, Mr. President?

The President. Will I, on this question?

Q. Yes.

The President. I don't know. I would not think there would be any announcements today. I'm getting my signals from General Scowcroft who's just said a very quiet nod of his head. [Laughter] So he knows what's going to come out of the meeting, and I'm not sure I do.

Pennsylvania Senatorial Election

Q. Mr. President, why is the Thornburgh race so close? What's happened there?

The President. How do you know it is, Rita [Rita Beamish, Associated Press]? I mean, I don't know how close one way or another. I just don't know.

Q. The polls show that Wofford steadily closed that gap to the point where it's neck-and-neck, and Thornburgh was so far ahead.

The President. We'll have to wait and see how the results go. Obviously, we're very strongly for Dick Thornburgh, and we'll see. But the negative campaign that was run against him based on trying to blame him for problems that he had, over which he had no control, maybe that's a harbinger of things to come.

Note: The exchange began at 1:40 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.