The Washington Post asked the three major Democratic presidential candidates to submit to interviews in which they would be asked identical questions. In the absence of a genuine debate, the interviews would provide an opportunity for readers to see how each candidate responds to the same questions. California Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) agreed. Brown was interviewd Jan. 4 in Los Angeles, Kennedy on Jan. 8 in Iowa. President Carter, through press secretary Jody Powell, refused repeated requests to participate.
Q: Has the turmoil in the Middle East affected your position on the adequacy of our defense posture and our level of defense spending?
BROWN: No.I believe that we certainly need a very strong defense but we must base it on a clear understanding of sustainable strategic and tactical doctrine. I believe that the Pentagon is not much different from other bureaucracies in government and has a tendency to pyramid and overlap and to waste money. I would cite as an example the MX system.
Beyond that, we should expand our training and keep our R&D at appropriate levels but we have to evaluate carefully where we can best use our military power and where our allies can provide for their own defense. We still are very much influenced by America as world policeman, but the day is coming when we must demand of the various regional groupings of nations that they assume greater responsibility to maintain peace in their areas of the world.
KENNEDY: The answer would be no. I have for a long time felt that there has to be an upgrading in our conventional forces. Half of our ships cannot leave their ports and arrive at their destination on time, half of our planes cannot leave their airports and arrive at their missions on time. There is a serious repture among our armed forces in the military personnel, particularly the mid-Korea personnel who are leaving our armed forces, and as any business organization would understand, that is the part of an organization that bears a very heavy responsibility for the effectiveness of the organization . . .
I supported the 3 percent increase in our defense budget this past year, and I'll support the efforts in the Congress to insure that our conventional forces can meet our national security needs now and in the future . . .
Q: Can you foresee circumstances under which the United States would have to go to war to assure supplies of oil?
BROWN: I believe the country has to be prepared to defend its vital interests, particularly in cooperation with other nations in threatened regions of the world, but I don't think it would be productive to threaten a war over one particular raw material, even one as vital as oil.
KENNEDY: The United States should not tolerate the interruption of oil supply in the Middle East by the Soviet Union. That would be completely unacceptable and the United States would have to take whatever steps necessary including military steps to insure continuation of oil supply from that region of the world.
Q: Would you favor higher prices or legal limits on oil and gasoline consumption as the best way to reduce dependence on foreign oil, or should we exploit domestic coal supplies and build new nuclear power plants?
BROWN: We'd better break that up into two questions. We're getting higher prices and obviously I wish they didn't have to go so high. My preferred method would be actual gasoline rationing. The best way to lower consumption is to restrict it, and I view rationing as the least bad of the three alternatives, namely, immediate decontrol, a huge tax on gasoline or rationing. One of those three has to be chosen and my preference would be for rationing although I certainly don't foreclose some surcharge on gasoline if that's the only way Congress will respond.
I would not build any new nuclear power plants. I would judiciously develop our indigenous coal supplies and do so in an environmentally sound manner. In California we are building two new coal plants and generally see that this fuel source, while it has serious problems, can be very useful in the years ahead.
KENNEDY: I favor a synfuels program, not the administration's $88 billion program, which would commit vast sums of money to untried technologies. I favor more resources towards research and development in the coal production of this country. I favor incentives to the homeowner, to the commercial sector and industrial sector for energy efficiency and productivity. Canada has more incentives for the homeowner than the United States does today and is doing a more effective job of encouraging the homeowner to conserve energy. Japan produces a ton of steel using 40 percent less energy than the United States. We can be more efficient and more productive in the commercial and industrial sector.
I'm opposed to nuclear power, and were there to be an interruption or a shortage of supply I would favor a rationing system rather than relying on a pricing mechanism, which I think would permit some people to buy their way out of an energy crisis, which is a crisis which this country has to face, united and together.
Q: Is America in retreat economically and politicially around the world?
BROWN: America is going through a transition, economically and politically throughout the world. A collection of our industries and technologies are maturing and losing their historic rate of growth and that is having a profound impact on our entire domestic economy that undermines conventional economic thinking, whether of the left or the right. With respect to foreign affairs, the fragmentation and maturing of so many new nations in the period after World War II requires a redefinition of America's responsibilities globally.
KENNEDY: The United States foreign policy is, I believe, lurching from crisis to crisis. Embassies are seized, hostages held, Cuban troops in Africa, Soviet troops is Cuba, Soviet troops in Afghanistan, and it would appear that the United States is constantly responding to crisis, constantly reacting. I believe that our allies question United States leadership in the world and our adversaries don't respect it, and clearly the United States must regain its position of prestige and influence around the world. Secondly, I don't think you can distinguish foreign policy from the domestic policy.
In coming to grips with the central issue of our time, the problem of inflation, we have to realize that good intentions are not enough. We've seen the battle of inflation is being lost and the only way that we can come to grips with the central issue of inflation is by having a president who is completely and totally involved in the battle against inflation and assuring the American people that the battle for inflation again is going to be fairly and equitably fought in our society and not fought on the backs of either working people or the senior citizens or the minorities or the women in our society, or the consumers in the country.
Q: How would you control inflation without creating additional unemployment?
BROWN: I would support the balanced budget amendment authored by Sen. DeConcini and now pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee. I would attempt to formulate a national policy that encouraged emphasis on investment and investment in productive activity as opposed to the more aggregate stimulus that often derives from a generalized tax cut or indiscriminate tax credits.
I would work very hard to negotiate appropriate restrictions on the Euro-dollar market. I would attempt to negotiate a new basis of our oil relationship with foreign oil producers by linking a scheduled reduction in our own inflation and dollar weakness with the agreed assurance of oil supplies at a stable price. I would explore methods of controlling private credit with respect to downpayment and terms of repayment so as to provide for a more orderly growth rather than the boom-bust approach that President Carter pursued after his election in '76.
KENNEDY: The battle against inflation must take an active presidential involvement in insuring that the wage-price guidelines are going to be followed fairly and equitably across the board. What is necessary is not a czar to fight inflation but in the administration what is necessary is presidential intervention in the major agreements that can contribute to price increases, that hasn't been the case over the period of the last four years. What I'm calling for is an active, effective voluntary wage-price guideline policy.We have seen the voluntary wage-price guideline effective in other times in our history. It was effective in the early part of the 1960s and the mid-1960s and it should be effective in the 1980s. Secondly, I think we have to further the forces of competition in our society. Third, we have to increase productivity in our society. I've mentioned the incentives that would be provided to industry and the commercial sector from an energy point of view, and steps which the administration opposed, but I favor increasing the incentives in productivity. I think we need more energetic policy in the areas of foreign trade, we still have the responsibility for foreign trade scattered through agencies of government. I think there has to be a reduction of regulation in the American economic sector, sixth I believe that we need to have a more effective policy towards encouraging competition, and fighting price-fixing in our American economy. And finally I favor the steps that have been taken by the Congress to insure that we're going to achieve a balanced budget next year.
Q: Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker and others have suggested that in the future Americans must lower their standard of living. Do you agree, and if you do, what do you mean by a lower standard of living?
BROWN: I wouldn't use that term. I believe Americans can improve their quality of life but in the process must shift their premises form an overemphasis upon quantity, accumulation and planned obsolecence to quality, efficiency and conservation.
KENNEDY: No, I believe that American ingenuity, American genius, American enterprise can respond to the challenges we're facing today, whether its the energy area, or other areas of policy. I'm sure there are some limitations of natural resources, but clearly we can deal effectively with the challenges we're facing here at home, and I believe abroad . . . That's always been the American way, and I believe it can be its way in the future.
Q: Other than passage of the Equal Rights Amendments, do you think new measures are needed to assure racial equality and to respond to the civil rights grievances of women, minorities and homosexuals?
BROWN: Well, I believe there should be a prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation. With respect to women, minorities and others who have been historically excluded, greater efforts must be made to both hire and promote such individuals through the federal government and within the private sector. Appropriate training programs should be used, particularly to assist the structurally unemployed, since that often is the most intractable area of all the functions in what has been termed a secondary labor market.
KENNEDY: I'd say yes. For a long time I've favored affirmative action, although I've been opposed to quotas, but I do believe that there is specifically in the area of women's interests, there are particular areas of public policy that must be addressed. I think of the discrimination that exists in jobs, education and housing, and I think that the Justice Department ought to be an active institution to see that that discrimination is eliminated in our society.
I can think of changes in Social Security and retirement programs that have to be altered and changed for women . . . It's a well-known, documented fact that women receive 59 cents on the dollar for equal responsibilities with men in the private sector and our economy generally, and that must be remedied. I think in the areas of black and Hispanics and native Americans, there has to continue to be an effort to insure that they're going to be a part of the whole economic dream for America. Certainly a challenge to the 1980's is going to be to include their involvement in economic expansion and involvement. I'm particularly concerned about the continued problems that we are facing for minority youths in the inner cities . . .
I think that in the area of gay rights that there has to be elimination of all discrimination against gay rights in our society. I think any legislation that exists on the books should be struck down. We made some progress in the area of the recodification of the criminal code in that area, I'm working with the immigration service to eliminate such discrimination, I think that there's a broad area of policy that must be attended to in the period of the 1980's in this area.
Q: Are American schools failing our children?
BROWN: American schools reflect the culture, the tempo of the neighborhoods and communities in which they are located. The tensions, the identity crises, the uncertainties which Americans face are fed back through the school system to the children themselves and I wouldn't try to isolate one from the other. I would say that the adult generation must chart more sustainable values for the future and, as we do, we will provide a more appropriate learning environment for children with particular reference to relevant skills so children can develop a sense of mastery and have more contact with the world of work . . .
KENNEDY: Some schools are magnificent in the United States and others which are failing to meet the central concerns that parents have for educating their children I think there is no place in our country where there is more of a crisis in education than in the inner cities of our country. I think that we must be able to fashion and shape a program in which the federal government works with state government and local communities to strengthen the educational system in our cities of this nation, and some rural communities. There are a number of different issues which are presented by that strengthening. One is to insure the adequately trained teachers and adequately compensated teachers.Another is the whole question of security for teachers. In the inner city schools, particularly, I think another is to insure that children who go to these schools are at least going to, a hungry child is not going to be an attentive child in school, and we have to maintain the school lunch programs. We have to insure that there, the classrooms are not overcrowded, the textbooks are common for a particular class of students, we have to insure that in areas where there's cultural differences we have to insure that bilingual and bicultural programs are going to exist, and I think we have to strengthen our educational system in the inner cities of this country.
Also the broader questions of higher education, we find that it's increasingly a challenge for middle-in-come people to send their children to college. I've worked very close with Sen. Bellmon and introduced legislation that has strong bipartisan support that will insure more equitable opportunity for talented and creative and intelligent students to obtain loans, long-term loans that can be repaid over a longer period of time so that they can get the educaton which they're qualified for. This would be done at considerable savings over the current program. The opportunity for continued education, higher education, I think is important for the country. Finally, I'd just say I'm very concerned about medical education in our society. We've seen a significant cutback in this administration in support for medical schools. I think that's the wrong policy at the wrong time. I think we have to strenghthen our support for medical education in this country to insure the adequacy of medical personnel to meet health care needs.
Q: Do you favor reinstitution of the draft, and, if you do, would you support drafting women?
BROWN: No. I am not going to reinstitute the draft.
KENNEDY: Well I'm opposed to the draft and I could not see it being reinstituted unless there was some wartime footing. I think in any wartime there's going to have to be the inclusion of all the young people in the society to help meet any national emergency.
Q: If you were elected president, how would you overcome fragmentation and stalemate in Congress?
BROWN: The only way the fragmentation and stalemate can be overcome is through the development of a clear set of priorities on the part of the governing political party and on the part of the nation itself. A presidential campaign should be more than a discussion of horserace positions as determined by political polls and empty rhetoric and rather a contest to formulate a governing mandate and coalition for the years ahead. That's a very difficult undertaking but until that occurs any president is going to face great difficulty with Congress.
KENNEDY: The situation to a great extent was created by Mr. Carter. Mr. Carter ran against Washington and against the institutions of Washington, and I think the country has paid a price for that. I believe that there are men and women in the Congress of the United States that are highly talented, creative and concerned individuals who have a profound knowledge on the issues of our times and whose talent ought to be incorporated in the fashioning and shaping of policy. Members of Congress want to see a president succeed, and I believe what is necessary in the 1980's is a partnership between the executive, the Congress and the American people in facing up to our problems here at home and around the world. I think the Congress is yearning to be an active partner in that endeavor.
Q: Do the American people expect too much of the president?
BROWN: I think we have a right to expect a great deal of the president, but we should be realistic. He doesn't operate as a dictator, he functions in a context of countervailing pressures, domestically, internationally, and we govern in this society as a free people and if we understand that, then we can demand of our president insight, vision and the ability to lead but we shouldn't expect him to live our lives for us or assume responsibilities that are either personal or local in nature.
KENNEDY: No, I don't believe so. What the American people expect of a president is to set goals, to establish a vision for the country, to develop a team that can implement those goals to galvanize the forces in a society in the directions which are consistent with those goals, and I believe that the American people are prepared to respond. One of the interesting developments of the concerns of the American people about the hostages is the sense of national unity and purpose, and I think that kind of focus and attention could be directed equally towards meeting the challenges which we're facing here at home, from an economic point of view, from an energy point of view, and I believe it could also be focused on the shaping and fashioning of foreign policy for the United States that had the confidence of our allies and the respect of our adversary.