From an exchange Sunday among columnist George F. Will and Democratic presidential candidates Paul Simon and Michael Dukakis on "This Week with David Brinkley."
George F. Will: Sen. Simon, you've been accused of voodoo welfare statism, saying that we can have all of the many, many programs you offer without serious economic problems, even starting with a deficit of the size that President Reagan has given us. Gov. Dukakis, you are accused of having your own free lunch, which is that we'll just enforce the tax code better and get sufficient revenues. Could any of you, either of you, say something rude to a constituency of the Democratic Party? Is there some group out there important to you that you will nevertheless right now on live television say to: you don't want to hear this but this is what I'm telling you?
Paul Simon: I think we are saying that.
Will: Do it here.
Simon: Well, for example, I talk about an oil import fee as a possible revenue increaser, in the program that I've spelled out -- and I've spelled this out in much more detail than other candidates. And I have made my priorities, not just a wish list as has been suggested. I have said we're going to move on education, we're going to move on jobs, we're going to move on long-term care, but it has to have a self-financing mechanism. When people come up with other ideas, I say, I'd like to do these things, but they're going to have to wait until we have the revenue.
Will: Now, Gov. Dukakis, there's an oil import fee. I gather you don't want an oil import fee for New England.
Michael Dukakis: No, I'm against an oil import tax. I think it's a bad idea. But I think making those tough choices on spending which are going to upset some people, and that's true whether you're talking about defense or the domestic side, helping hundreds of thousands of welfare families to get off welfare so we don't have to spend a lot of money on welfare and Medicaid and they can be independent and self-sufficient and self-supporting. Doing something about billions of dollars in farm subsidy by getting our agricultural economy moving again. These are things that we say all the time, and some people like them and some people don't. But that's the test of executive leadership.
Will: Now, campaigning for support in Democratic primaries and saying we're going to get tough with the defense budget is not a tough choice. Can you -- what tough choices are you telling -- specific choices -- are you telling Democratic Party voters that you're ready to make on the domestic side of the budget?
Dukakis: Well, let me say first on the defense side, I'm not talking about cuts. I'm talking about not spending billions on weapons systems of questionable value, and getting serious about building our conventional forces. And that's a very important part of our defense policy, and it's a part of our defense policy that the Reagan administration has badly neglected over the past seven years.
Will: That may be a wonderful idea, Senator -- or Governor -- but it is not heroic telling it to Democratic voters.
Dukakis: On the contrary. I think many Democratic voters would prefer not to hear that. But I think we need a much stronger conventional defense in this country. And I say that to Democratic voters all over America.
Will: See if we can get an answer to this question. Are you prepared to say something that Democratic voters don't want to hear specifically about cuts in the domestic side of the budget?
Dukakis: Sure. And I've said so. And when people come to me and say, we've got to spend billions on this and billions on that, I say to them, look, unless and until we get somebody in the White House -- and I think Michael Dukakis can do this job -- who can get our fiscal house in order, we can't spend all of these billions. And I've said and I will continue to say it. And that's the test of executive leadership.