Iowa Press; 1428; Presidential Hopeful Richard Gephardt
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There's kind of the sea has been called a long shot but his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination is turning heads in Iowa. A prominent congressional voice on trade and farm issues he's hoping to use next year's Iowa caucuses as a springboard into the crowded race for the White House.
And on this site where Harry Truman accepted victory. I am announcing my candidacy for president of the United States.
Tonight we talk to Missouri congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Richard Gephardt.
This is the Sunday April 26 the Titian of Iowa Prouse.
Here is Dean Barr. Good evening. The Wall Street Journal last fall compared support for his 1988 presidential candidacy to Iowa's Cedar River narrow shallow and murky. But he's also been described by The Atlantic Monthly as a prince of Congress like Jimmy Carter and Gary Hart before in Missouri as Richard Gephardt faces the problem of letting Iowa Democrats know who he is and what he wants.
Well here is a little background.
In his 10 years in Congress the 46 year old St. Louis attorney has built a reputation as an effective player in Washington politics as Democratic caucus chair. He's been instrumental in legislation on tax reform trade and farming issues critical to Iowa with Senator Bill Bradley. Gephardt called for cuts in tax rates and the elimination of many deductions. Two years before the White House began pushing the same ideas critics have labeled him a protectionist on trade issues because Gephardt favors reciprocal trade agreements. In fact he opened his campaign in February by blasting Japan South Korea and others for what he called unfair trade practices. Get parts support for a plan to raise farm prices through mandatory production controls and national marketing quotas for each commodity is also controversial.
I think he made God out of the president's.
Butt in reprising older scenes of the party he has advocated cutting military spending and raising taxes over a three to four year period to bring the federal budget into line as an historical footnote it must be pointed out that no one has made the jump from the House of Representatives to the White House since James Garfield did it in 1880.
Tonight we'll discuss those formidable odds as well as other matters of interest with Congressman Richard Gephardt to be questioned by David yaps a political reporter for The Des Moines Register. And by Mike Glover of the Associated Press.
Congressman Gephardt what do you want to be president of states.
I want to be president because I'm deeply concerned about the future of this country I think we're in a state of economic decline and I think that we need new leadership and I think I can provide that leadership and I think I've shown the capacity to do it in the House of Representatives.
Congressman I don't think any other Democrat running for president would disagree with that. The decision that I would Democrats have to make is to choose among you. Why should I would Democrats.
I nominate you as their candidate for president because I think of the candidates I have shown the greatest capacity to take ideas to make them happen. And I think what we need 1988 is strong decisive leadership leadership that not only can make speeches and write white papers but leadership they can get things done on tax reform on health care on trade on Social Security on the budget I have been one in the Congress who has led I've got 70 members of the House who are Democrats who are supporting me and I think that's the best indication you can have of the kind of leadership that I can bring.
But being a president is different from being a candidate for president as a candidate you've got to when you are an unknown congressman according to the polls. Around the country Senator Hart is far better known. So why shouldn't I would Democrats stay with a guy who is beating both George Bush and Bob Dole in the polls.
You know he as a guy who can win an election because I think the Iowa Democrats also want to know who can be the best president who can move this country who could take the ideas that need to be put into action in this country and who can make them happen not only by talking to the American people but by getting the Congress to actually act and move. I would ask one of the other candidates been able to achieve in their time in the Congress and compare that with what I've been able to do I think that's the kind of leadership we need.
Congressman in your time on the campaign trail one of the things you've been able to achieve is attract the interest of some groups that have been called special interest groups there have been some comparisons to your candidacy with that of Walter Mondale who appealed to groups like labor and things like that that were called special interest groups. Are you a candidate with special interest in can you avoid that label.
I say the same thing in Iowa that I say everywhere in the country I talk about the goals that I think this country needs to achieve in the next 10 and 20 years. There are individuals and groups who like those goals who believe that that is what we need to do. But I don't say anything to any group that I don't say to every other group. I am a candidate who is trying to run to be the president of all the people of this country and to try to move this country toward the kind of concrete goals that I think we need to reach back to what happened to Walter Mondale and the perception of people as being a candidate of some special interest as Mike has alluded to here.
What are you going to actively seek that type of endorsement. Any political candidate would really covet that. But you seem to say I want to be the candidate of everybody. So are you going to go after such indorsement actively.
You need political endorsements you need people to say I want to be for Dick Gephardt I want to help him be president. And some people form groups there are all kinds of groups in the country and I'm happy to have any any endorsement that would help me win the nomination and win the presidency. I don't think there's going to be a endorsement say of organized labor to take one group in 1988 I don't think any of us are going to be able to get the two thirds vote of that group to to be president. But I'll take the support and help of anyone who can help me. The present United States who wants to help me in that quest.
You know I want to flesh out this electability question a little bit more. You know there's a reason why no congressman has been elected to the presidency so what Jim Garfield. And that is you're also unknown. You know you don't have a national basis like a senator has. Should that be of concern I would Democrats to me use you answer that by saying you're a candidate of ideas. That's fine but I want to go with the your ability to win the White House if a Democrat nominates you.
I would submit that being in the house is even an advantage in 1988. The senators are is a KNOWN AS I AM Paul Simon or Gary Hart not Gary Hart but Al Gore are as little known around the country as I am. So I don't see that as a disadvantage I also believe that being in the house is an advantage. I've got 70 House Democrats who are supporting my candidacy. They're working in their districts we had 12 of them here in Iowa yesterday supporting my candidacy. I think their help around the country and in the early states can be a distinct advantage. Finally we know from 1076 in 1984 that unknown candidates like Jimmy Carter and Gary Hart got into the race and became major factors in the race of not even winning it without being known to stick with this electability question or issue for a second.
There are early signs that some of the candidates were kind of down here are starting to aim at Gary Hart and take some shots at him. Is there danger of a Democratic primary contest is going to turn out to be a war you're going to merge with a candidate who can be so scarred ticking away.
I don't think so I think we're going to have good debates on the issues I plan to come to as many debates as they're held. I think we're going to talk about our views our vision for what should happen in the country we're going to talk about our differences I have differences with Gary Hart on trade. I think his views are much more like the Reagan administration. I have a very tough view of what we need to do on trade. That's a legitimate difference between this on a very important issue for the country. So I think we're going to have good issue debates we're not going to be attacking one another personally I think we have a good field of candidates I like the other candidates. I want to elect a Democrat in 1988. We need to let the people know where we differ on important issues.
You bring up trade so let's get into that you were out here over the weekend talking about your trade proposals it will be before the Congress next week. Two part question. What do you want to do on trade and is it not really a form of protectionism.
I think we've got to pry markets abroad open that are not now open. And so the Gephardt amendment which will be voted on soon is an open market Amendment. It is not an amendment to close American markets. It's an amendment to get the foreign markets that are not fully open open. The only way to do that and this is the nub of the disagreement I believe you've got to be very tough and very assertive even to the point of threatening to begin to close our market to other countries that would open theirs. Others believe you can't be that tough that if you do that you'll have retaliation in a trade war I don't believe that this is one thousand eighty seven thousand nine hundred thirty two. We live in a world market place no one can afford to be out of the American market. So we will get markets open only when we finally decide we're going to be assertive enough to get other countries to change their behavior. And the leaders of the other governments need the pressure in order to be able to get the inertia in their private sector to change to get that is going to know and can afford to be out of the American market.
That may be true they like to sell here but I think the real question and I was waiting for you to answer that especially as it relates to Iowa farmers how about us getting into their market their markets may may close if we began to get tough.
They're already pretty much closed. We can sell some grain and some countries can't sell beef can't sell processed foods can't sell a lot of the agricultural products we make in this country. I don't think that's fair. I don't think that's right we've been disadvantaged. So my point is you've got to begin telling other countries Hey open the market up to beef open it up to process goods supercomputers the other things that we can sell that we make with quality. But if you won't we're going to start closing our market to you. We've been unwilling to do that because we have been living in the fear that there'd be a trade war. It's not going to happen. Japanese auto makers made 100 percent of their profit in the American marketplace last year. They're not about to be foreclosed from this market. But as long as we're not assertive about getting their market open they're not going to do it.
There's been a lot of Democrats I've talked to like what you say about trade but they're very fearful of what Dean is talking about. I mean one of the things is just sort of ingrained in the people in Iowa is that you're a free trader and and you're asking to change that a little bit saying that the times have changed. Are there any guarantees that that the country could go your route on trade and not have the rest of the world as Dean says take it out on aisle farmers. Gary Hart says you start a trade war the first victims are going to be farmers.
Well he's wrong. Let's look at cedar shingles in Canada about six months ago we said no more cedar shingles you've been dumping it. It's wrong and we're going to knock them out. They screamed and yelled there was all kinds of talk about a trade wall and we sat down at the table we worked it out and they knew we meant business and that's what helped get it worked out. We did the same thing with the European community on agricultural commodities a lot of yelling and screaming a lot of talk about trade war. We sat down we worked it out. These countries cannot afford to be out of this marketplace that's what we've got to keep in our mind and we've got to also keep in our mind that the only way you get a good deal at the bargaining table is if they know you mean there's some of us will get hurt if your trade policies won't hurt farmers how your farm policies help.
Because I think the two things we most need now in the Midwest in the green area is debt restructuring to give farmers time to work out of their problems and second a plan to get the price for feed grains up. If we can't get the price up I think the support for the present program will collapse the present program has a ratcheting down of price supports for feed grains which was the thing the Reagan administration exacted when we put the 85 farm bill through. So I think those are the two things we need to do if we can do that we can I think bring health back to farming in the Midwest.
If you get into foreign policy and you get more farm bill would be some limits on production. That's sort of an example of you advocating getting the government to go into a marketplace get farmers to cut back limit production. Your trade policies are sort of getting the government into a marketplace. How far are you willing to go into the marketplace to regulate.
Let me argue to you that the farm program we get now has the government more in the farming than what I'm talking about. We've got the biggest farm program we've ever had in the history of the country it's twenty six billion dollars this year. Farmers in Iowa are getting more from the government for corn than they're getting from the marketplace. I can't think of a more government involved program than that what I'm advocating is let farmers do what every industry in the country does and that's when supply and demand are out of whack you start affecting supplies so that you can get your price up. Farmers have trouble doing that because there are so many of them and they're spread out they don't communicate. If General Motors has too many Chevrolets being produced and they're not getting a price they stop producing so many Chevrolets. So let's give farmers that capacity to do that to get the price up. Get the government out of subsidizing farming to the extent we are.
But you've said that you will pursue the hard can get part. Mandatory production controls with a referendum bill when the debate comes over the farm credit system and its need for money that will give you an opening to try to push that through the Congress. Realistically do you expect to get that passed in the House and in the Senate and signed by the president.
I don't. I don't know what we can ultimately pass. We've had a meeting in the last week or so in the house with the House leadership to talk about the agricultural crisis in the country. There is tremendous interest in debt restructuring and giving farmers a greater amount of time to work out of their problems interest write downs and so on. There's also interest in the price side. There's not an agreement on the approach that's in the Harkin Gephardt Bill. But there is tremendous interest in doing something in that area in revising the present program on feed grains. And I think we can change the present farm bill and move toward the direction of getting a better price for the farm.
But what I'm getting at is I guess I'm asking to take your presidential candidate hat off and put your congressional leader hat on for a minute. Farmers complain about politicians giving them false hopes. And so what I'm trying to get at here is an assessment by you of which pieces of that you think this Congress can deal with. Now I hear you saying perhaps debt restructuring. Yes. Any others.
I think we can do something on price for food grains. I think we can change the program to get greater supply management perhaps change the way this the present program is structured between target prices and loans so that we can get farmers a greater amount for their commodity.
You've got some indication from the Senate and the White House that they'll go along with that.
I don't know that the White House would go along with that so I think the Senate would be more likely to follow a house lead if we can get a bill through the house.
Congressman Dave referred to this earlier when he said the people I would like to talk about themselves are free traders and I've mentioned that old buzzword of government interference in the farming there are some hurdles here that you seem to have to get over in terms of expectations or what people like to hear that the free trade thing people want to talk about being free trade when they really may not be. They get government out of farming when they really kind of have government there now. Are you finding it a problem to get over those sorts of perceptual type hurdles.
You talk I want I don't think so I we all deal with labels and words that are important to us I call myself a free trader. I am far the freest trading system we can possibly produce but it's got to be fair. We can't be disadvantage. So I can I can attach the right label to what I'm talking about. I think so that people understand what I'm saying but I think we've got to get beyond labels. I really in this campaign want the people of this state to really listen to what we're seeing and to think about what we're saying and what we want this country to be. We can't get stuck with the old labels and just make it the easy way. Programs like this the debates that are to come I think are a real opportunity for the people of Iowa to get into the heads of the candidates that are running in and really understand what we want to have happen in this country and where we differ and where the nuances of difference are and what the policies will be if each of us is elected.
The last five minutes you mentioned debt restructuring as it relates to agriculture. There's a massive debt in this country right now. What are you planning. If you are elected president what are you planning to do to deal with that. We're talking about a farm program here. I don't know what the expense of that will be because we haven't talked about that but just generally in this nation's debt how do you view that and how are you going to get out of it.
We need to balance the budget over a four or five year period and I think we can you cannot do it quickly when you've got a 200 billion dollar deficit or you throw the economy into trouble. I believe you have to do it by reaching a consensus with the Congress. And I would do it by reducing spending primarily in the defense area and by increasing revenues primarily through an oil import fee excise taxes or an increase in the Minimum Tax of the wealthiest in the country are paying a fair share of their taxes. We are now taking in about 18 and a half percent of gross national product in all taxes and we're spending about 24 and a half on the 6 percent gap. Is your 200 billion dollars so deficit we will ruin this country economically in my opinion if we don't solve that deficit problem over the next three four five years.
The two issues here one is the deficit the other is the debt. How do you do you see any way that you can in deficit spending and start to repay the national debt without permanently lowering the standard of living of younger Americans and the baby boomers who are going to have to pay higher taxes to accomplish those two goals.
I think if we don't get the budget straightened out that everybody's standard of living in this country will ultimately go down a great deal. I think we have to try to overcome the problem that this administration has created in the last six or seven years. The sooner we do that in a sensible intelligent fashion the better off the future's going to be. We have dug a hole for ourselves there's no question that Ronald Reagan has increased the debt of this country by a trillion and a half dollars in the period that he's been president. We're going to pay a price for that there's no question about it. The question is how big is the price. And all I'm saying is the faster we get this behind us reach the essential consensus to solve the problem the better the standard of living for everybody in America.
How big a hole has been dug for presidential candidates because to erase the deficit there are only two ways to go about it. One is raise taxes to cut spending and you can't get it all by cutting spending. So as a presidential candidate you're forced to campaign on raising taxes and look what happened a lot to Mondale. How do you overcome that.
I don't intend to campaign on raising taxes I want to talk about the urgent priorities that I think our country has to face. I want to talk about education I want to talk about training I want to talk about research and a new agricultural and energy program for the country. Obviously some of those things cost money and I will talk honestly with the people about how I would balance the budget and satisfy those priorities. I think all of us have to do that. And people can't come along and say well. We can raise enough taxes by just increasing in forcemeat procedures or some other lame answer to how to do it we've got to be honest. Harry Truman was one of the best presidents this country ever had.
The people appreciate him because he told the truth. He faced people in their eyes and said this is what's got to be done to move this country and I think people want that kind of candor in 88.
Congressman talk about education them. What do you want to do there and how do you pay for it.
First of all I think that it's the most important goal that we face. We cannot hold our standard of living with less we improve our effort in education. I think we need to wipe out a literacy in this country by the year 2000 I think we need a national literacy corps of volunteers and maybe some retired people on a small amount of pay in order to make that happen. Second we need to induce States to increase their educational outcomes I'd like to see some increased federal aid going to states who agreed to make incremental measured progress toward greater literacy and educational outcomes. I think we need to restore some of the cuts that have been named in college loans. I think we need to offer families the ability to put money away when a baby is born. They could be matched in some fashion by the federal government so that by the time the child is at the age of 18 they have the money to go to college in this country to go to some kind of vocational school. Lots of other ideas. We need it. We need to pay for this program. By bringing in enough revenue and cutting spending in other areas to make it happen we cannot keep every program that we put in the domestic are the defense side in place. You know right now you can get rid of. I don't think we can build six nuclear strategic systems at one time and now I think we've got to cut two of those back. I think we've got to stop funding those programs I think Star Wars should be cut back a great deal to a much lower level research program than it is today on the domestic side I think there are programs like the Economic Development Administration that have probably outlived their usefulness could be better put into other programs for research and education.
Congressman on that side of the ledger we're not going to be spending as much as defense and there are there's a lot of talk now about President Reagan negotiating some sort of an arms control treaty trying to get that through Congress. Will Democrats in Congress support that push for it work to make that happen. There's some speculation that if the president can get some kind of an agreement to get him off the Iran hook do Democrats want him when that Iran-Contra hooker group the Democrats want an arms control agreement.
I want arms control. I will support this president in trying to get arms control I think every Democrat in the Congress will do that as well. We we are far this country moving forward in a stable relationship with the Soviet Union. The IMF for the intermediate nuclear force agreement for Europe is the first step the next step is the more important step. And that is really reducing the number of warheads on both sides so that we can have a more stable relationship and increase the likelihood that we can avoid nuclear war seriously but one thing you talk about a lot of issues today.
You talk about trade talk farm talk about arms control your trade amendment coming up early next week. How can you work for those issues in Congress and be sitting here and I was talking about.
Because I work hard. I think as I said my announcement address that I'm going to win because I'll start earlier every morning and I'll quit later every night and I think that that's what you're going to see that's what I've been doing for the last two years as a practical matter today Washington D.C. What we're talking here is hoovering going on in Congress over your trade Amendment and you're not there don't you lose some effectiveness. I was in Washington three days this week I'll be there four days next week and I will be through the entire trade debate I think when you see the vote you'll see that I'll win and I'll win because I did the hard work over a three year period on the trade amendment so I'm going to I'm going to be a leader in Congress I'm chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and I'm going to be and I will probably as much if not more than any other candidate.
Congresswoman a couple other issues in the brief time we have lived in Central America and foreign policy much of your record is on the domestic side. Why would you be competent to run American foreign policy.
I have been active in the Congress on every foreign policy issue in the last 10 years. I led the fight on the floor eight times to cut off contrie 8 I went out and found the votes. Sat down in members offices and asked them to support the Democratic position to cut off aid to the Contras. I got up on the floor and argued that position. I have had amendments on defense bills to enhance arms control I had the amendment with Pat Schroeder to reach a nuclear test band with the Soviets. So my record my experience in foreign affairs would would equal anyone who is running for this race. I think I'm fully competent to deal with those issues to meet with the Soviets to deal with Central America to put together a sounded TELEGIN sensible foreign policy for this country in the end to manage it and execute it to make them happen.
Some Democrats say you flip flopped on the abortion issue.
What is your position on abortion my beliefs on abortion have never changed. I think we've got to try to the extent we can to give people the ability to avoid abortion or to avoid unwanted pregnancies if we can do that. I once felt that in and then it was the way to do that. I don't believe that any longer. We've been locked in this fight for 12 13 years it's going nowhere. There are practical things we can do today to better help people avoid unwanted pregnancies and to avoid abortions that's where I think our focus should be.
Cynicism in the electorate. A real phenomenon now. Ronald Reagan promised to do something about the deficit and he did although it was 180 degrees. What sort of guarantees come with Dick Gephardt in the promises you've just made.
I want all of the candidates I think will say many of the right things. I will say to people that I will be a president that they can believe in and that can lead this country and that will behave in the proper manner. Respect the law will do the right things morally and ethically ethically. But the final test is action. My dad used to talk to me all the time. I doubted that I listened very much to what he said. What I really watch was what he did. And all I can tell you is I'll do what I say.
Kind of a vice president would you like somebody out of the Washington scene in Congress right now.
I really would want someone who first would make a great president if for some reason I couldn't serve and second I'd want someone who could help me win the presidency. And those would be by two prime criteria and there are oodles of good candidates for that in the oversexed others do that further with it we're out of time.
Thank you Congressman Gephardt for being our guest this week and I will press if you'd like to comment to or submit some ideas to us here and I will press. Here is the address for you to write is post office box 64 50. Johnston Iowa and the zip code is 5 0 0 1 3 1. Again 64 50 the post office box zip is 5 a 1 3 1 for a panelist David Epstein and Mike Glover. I'm David Borg Thanks for being with us. We're going to help us take one next.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
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- Dick Gephardt, D, Missouri, discusses running for the Democratic nomination in the 1988 presidential election. UCA-30.
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