Tuesday in Cleveland, after months of maneuvering, tactical evasions and switches of positions, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan will face the nation in a joint TV appearance that the League of Women Voters is pleased to call a debate. Millions of Americans who are still undecided or wavering after all these weeks of inconclusive campaigning will turn on their sets hoping for a flash of insight into which of these men is best qualified to lead the nation. For those who want to prepare themselves to make this judgment, we offer two modest scraps of assistance: below, a sample of how Carter and Reagan answered some basic questions in recent interviews;

A: Mr President, it looks as though this year's federal budget deficit will top $60 billion. What do you say to Republican charges that you re hiking spending to hold down unemployment in an election year -- even at the risk of fueling more inflation?

A: That's not accurate at all. The restraints that we imposed last March in order to deal with the very high inflation and interest rates have been effective. About 85 percent of those proposed reductions have been honored by the Congress. The increase in expenditures is primarily a result of automatically triggered increases in Social Security payments, unemployment compensation payments and welfare payments, and so forth.

In proposing the economic program for the future, we have been very careful to make sure it is both noninflationary and designed to stimulate higher productivity and investment, provide a substantial increase in jobs, but with minimal adverse effect on budget outlays.

Q: How would you cope, if reelected, with what many say will be a slow business recovery combined with inflation in 1981?

A: We believe the net effect of the economic recovery program that I put forward will have a negative effect on the inflation rate. It will also reduce the unemployment rate about four-tenths of 1 percent. It's designed to increase business investment about 10 percent, create an additional 1 million new jobs by the end of 1982 and stimulate a steady growth in our national product of about 4 percent or 5 percent per year.

The so-called Reagan-Kemp-Roth proposal, on the contrary, can be highly inflationary. Most of it is designed for personal income tax reductions for higher-income families, as contrasted with our own, which is heavily oriented toward investment incentives.

Q: Isn't your proposal for tax incentives for business an adaptation of the old "trickle-down theory" that Republicans used to favor and that Democrats often opposed?

A: I don't agree with you there. In 1963, when President Kennedy put forward a tax proposal to rejuvenate our industrial system, it was 100 percent for business incentives. There were no personal income tax benefits in his proposal at all. Reagan's proposal is about 90 percent personal, only 10 percent for business investment. Ours is at least 50 percent for business to increase investments and to increase productivity for workers, and 50 percent for tax relief to low and middle-income families and workers.

The personal-income tax reductions in our program are designed to eliminate the marriage penalty -- which I think is important and long overdue. The other aim is to offset, through income-tax reductions, the increase that would be required for maintaining integrity of the Social Security system. That is anti-inflationary in nature. I might also add that the Reagan proposal is essentially a trickle-down proposal. Someone, for instance, who makes $200,000 a year would have 35 times more tax benefits than does a family that has $20,000 in income. Ours is an investment in working families' benefits and also in business investment to increase jobs.

Q: For all the accomplishments that you cite, Congress has blocked many of your programs and recently overrode one of your vetoes by a very heavy vote. As a lame duck president, what assurances do you have that you would get any more out of Congress in a second term?

A: Well, first of all, nothing worthwhile is ever easy, and I wouldn't be a lame duck president with four more years to go and another congressional election to come in 1982. My belief is that if I am reelected, this would be considered by the Congress as a mandate for support for the basic programs I have proposed.

The breadth of our energy program has not yet been adequately realized by the public. Although most of the investments in new energy technology would be from the private sector, the government contribution would exceed the sum total of the space program, the interstate highway system and the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe. It's that big in scope.

So I don't see the future as being one of dismal uncertainty or division. I see a future of bright hope, innovation, with a better quality of life for American people and the creation of literally millions of new jobs.

Q: A question on civil rights: Do you support racial quotas for jobs and school admissions as a way to undo past inequities?

A: I would rather not use the term "racial quotas." I do support affirmative action programs in order to correct the detectable residue of past discrimination. I have done this in government, and I have supported affirmative action in the private sector as well. I think the courts have upheld that principle.

Q: Turning to defense: You've made a point in recent speeches about your building a strong military force. Can you square that claim with your record of scuttling the B1 bomber and hesitancy in proceeding with the neutron bomb and cruise missile?

A: In seven of the eight years preceding my inauguration, we had a real decrease in expenditures for defense -- totaling 37 percent in real dollars. In every year since I've been in office, we've had a real growth, above and beyond inflation, in commitments to defense. And we will continue to have increases in defense expenditures throughout my second term.

I have no doubt that I made the right decision in not going ahead with the B1 bomber. This would have been a very costly, multi-billion-dollar program that would have produced a weapon that would have been highly vulnerable to the improved Soviet air defense capability. The substitution of air-launched cruise missiles for the B1 bomber gives us an effective means to deliver nuclear and conventional weapons to the Soviet Union, in spite of any projected improvement in their air defense systems.

On the missile side, we very carefully assessed how to remove the vulnerability of our silo-based missiles. The MX missile in a mobile-deployment mode, I am convinced, is the best investment. It's economically sound. It is a cheaper system than the Minuteman or the B52 bomber system was. It's cheaper than our submarine-launched missiles that we've had up until this point. And in my judgment, it corrects that vulnerability factor due to the increased accuracy of Soviet intercontinental missiles.

We got the Trident submarine system out of a dormant state. The first submarine with the Trident I missile -- the Ohio -- will have sea trials early next year. The second one is ready to be launched and will be commissioned soon.

I believe that in all three legs of our strategic system -- the Trident, the MX mobile-missile deployment and the air-launched cruise missile -- we have taken major strides forward of an innovative nature that will keep us invulnerable to any successful attack by the Soviet Union except a suicidal one on their part.

Q: We're spending more money than ever before for defense. But even some of our own military leaders say that elements of the U.S. armed forces really aren't ready for combat. What's gone wrong? Whose fault is it?

A: The subject has been dealt with in statements to Congress this year, but lately, in the heat of an election campaign, it's been highly publicized. The fact is that six divisions overseas and four of our 10 divisions in the U.S. are fully combat-ready.

The fact of the matter is that the U.S. Army is more combat-ready than it was three years ago. All of the major military forces deployed overseas in potential combat areas are combat-ready. It is normal for those divisions in the continental United States not to be up to their full combat strength. We're improving those as time goes on.

In all, I might add, only about one-third of the Soviet division are at combat strength. Some have only one-third of their normal complement of troops assigned to them on a full-time basis. This is a normal routine situation.

There is no doubt of our strength when we consider the long-term commitment of the allies in Europe, their agreement to deploy theater-nuclear forces, the buildup of our forces in the Persian Gulf region and the agreement by some of the nations in that region to let us use their facilities. The Rapid Deployment Force is well on the way to becoming a reality. I can tell you that across the board our forces are more ready now than they were when I became president.

Q: When you entered office, you were critical of what you called the country's inordinate fear of communism. Yet you now have invoked sanctions against the Soviet Union for invading Afghanistan and have cooled detente. Did you misread Russian intentions?

A: It is not the United States that has, as you put it, "cooled detente." The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the brutal war of occupation that Soviet troops are still fighting there have deeply damaged chances for the constructive East-West relationship I would like to see. I took strong actions to insure that the Soviets would pay a stiff price for disregarding international law and for breaking the rules of restraint on which a genuine, workable detente has to be based.

With our military and economic strength, the genuine support of our allies and the power of the ideas of freedom and human rights that compel such a wide response throughout the world, we do not have to fear communism as such. But we do have to respond strongly when communism, or any aggressive force, threatens peace and American interests in a vital region of the world.

Q: The views of many Americans on resolving the Mideast conflict -- Jerusalem, West Bank settlements, the Palestinians -- are more in line with Egypt's than Israel's. Why aren't we pressing the Israelis harder for a compromise?

A: I don't agree with the burden of your question. The United States is involved in the autonomy talks as a full partner with both Egypt and Israel. Our role is that of mediator, seeking to bridge differences and help bring about a resolution of difficult issues. Our participation in these talks also takes place against a firm and consistent background of U.S. policy in the Middle East. For example, our positions on the three subjects you mention -- Jerusalem, West Bank settlements and the Palestinians -- have been repeatedly and publicly spelled out at length, and we continue to adhere to them.

It is true that my administration is firmly committed to the security and the future of Israel as a fundamental national interest in the Unted States. tThat commitment will continue, and it is fully understood by President Sadat and other Arab leaders in the area.

It is important to understand that ther can be no solution to the immensely difficult problems relating to the West Bank and Gaza -- or to a wider settlement in the Middle East -- unless there can be full and free agreement among the parties, and that includes the government and nation of Israel. As we move forward with the autonomy talks, both Egypt and Israel will be faced with difficult decisions -- decisions that, for Israel, will go to the heart of its deepest concerns. Israel therefore needs our understanding, patience and sensitivity. This is the very opposite of exerting "pressure," which would not be in our interests and indeed would be counterproductive.

Q: Should the United States in its own interests move even closer to China, including providing arms, even if it further antagonizes the Soviet Union?

A: We did not establish relations with China in order to antagonize the Soviet Union, nor would we let some fear that the Soviets would be annoyed prevent us from developing our relations with China further.

It is in America's interest for China to be strong and secure. We have therefore significantly liberalized our procedures for licensing technology sales to China, and we have begun approving some sales of military support equipment, but not of weapons. These preliminary steps are consistent with our interests and with our allies' interest, too, and they fit with China's own priorities for modernization as well as with our assessment of the current international situation.

Q: Why isn't the United States moving more swiftly to counter Cuban-backed subversion in the Carribbean and Latin America?

A: Before I took office, the United States was paying only minimal attention to developments in the Carribbean and Latin America. We have set up an overall strategy to deal not just with Cuban expansionism but with the social and economic problems that create the turbulence with Cuba tries to exploit. That strategy involves enhancing and building up our own defense forces for the region, diplomatic consultations on a regular basis with our friends in Central and Latin America, expanded and improved monitoring of Cuban and Soviet activities, and greatly increased programs of economic and social assistance.

Q: Back on politics, reports persist that an unusually large share of voters are dissatisfied with all the presidential candidates and that the turnout at the polls may be a record low. Does that worry you?

A: No, because I don't believe that's the case. We have a larger participation during the primary and caucus season that ever before in history. pThere is sometimes a frivolous nature to a primary season that ordinarily is absent on the general election day for a president. I think the issues are so sharp between myself and Gov. Reagan this year that there's going to be a very good turnout.