But I have--thanks to my mother, God rest her soul -- the firmest possible belief and faith in God. And I don't believe -- I believe, I should say, as Lincoln once said, that I would be the most stupid man in the world if I thought I could confront the duties of the office I hold if I could not turn to someone who was stronger and greater than all others. And I do resort to prayer.
At the same time, however, I have not believed that prayer should be introduced into an election or be a part of a political campaign, or religion a part of that campaign. As a matter of fact, I think religion became a part of this campaign when Mr. Mondale's running mate said I wasn't a good Christian. So, it does play a part in my life. I have no hesitancy in saying so. And, as I say, I don't believe that I could carry on unless I had a belief in a higher authority and a belief that prayers are answered.
Given those beliefs, Mr. President, why don't you attend services regularly, either by going to church or by inviting a minister to the White House, as President Nixon used to do, or someone to Camp David, as President Carter used to do?
REAGAN: The answer to your question is very simple about why I don't go to church. I have gone to church regularly all my life. And I started to here in Washington. And, now, in the position I hold and in the world in which we live, where embassies do get blown up in Beirut -- we are supposed to talk about that on the debate the 21st, I understand -- but I pose a threat to several hundred people if I go to church. I know the threats that are made against me. We all know the possibility of terrorism. We have seen the barricades that have had to be built around the White House. And, therefore, I don't feel -- and my minister knows this and supports me in this position -- I don't feel that I have a right to go to church knowing that my being there could cause something of the kind that we have seen in other places -- in Beirut, for example. I miss going to church, but I think the Lord understands. Applause
WALTERS: May I ask you please . . . may I ask the audience, please to refrain from applause. May we have your second question?
Mr. Mondale, would you describe your religious beliefs and mention whether you consider yourself a born-again Christian and explain how those beliefs would affect your decisions as president?
MONDALE: First of all, I accept President Reagan's affirmation of faith. I am sure that we all accept and admire his commitment to his faith. And we are strengthened, all of us, by that fact.
I am a son of a Methodist minister. My wife is the daughter of a Presbyterian minister. And I don't know if I've been born again, but I know I was born into a Christian family. And I believe I have sung at more weddings and funerals than anybody to ever seek the presidency. Whether that helps or not, I don't know. I have a deep religious faith; our family does. It is fundamental. It's probably the reason I'm in politics. I think our faith tells us, instructs us about the moral life that we should lead. And I think we are all together on that.
What bothers me is this growing tendency to try to use one's one personal interpretation of faith politically to question others' faith, and to try to use the instrumentalities of government to impose those views on others. All history tells us that that is a mistake. When the Republican platform says that from here on out we are going to have a religious test for judges before they are selected for the federal court, and then Jerry Falwell announces that that means they get at least two justices on the Supreme Court, I think that's an abuse of faith in our country. This nation is the most religious nation on Earth. More people go to church and synagogues than any other nation on Earth. And it's because we kept the politicians and the state out of the personal exercise of our faith. That's why faith in the United States is pure and unpolluted by the intervention of politicians. And I think if we want to continue, as I do, to have a religious nation, let's keep that line and never cross is. Applause
Mr. Mondale. You've complained just now about Jerry Falwell and you've complained other times about other fundamentalists in politics. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't ever recall your ever complaining about ministers who are involved in the civil rights movement or in the anti-Vietnam war demonstrations, or about black preachers who have been so involved in American politics. It is only conservative ministers that you object to? Applause
MONDALE: No. What I object to is someone seeking to use his faith to question the faith of another, or to use that faith and seek to use the power of government to impose it on others. A minister who is in civil rights or in the conservative movement because he believes his faith instructs him to do that, I admire. The fact that the faith speaks to us and that we are moral people, hopefully, I accept and rejoice in. It's when you try to use that to undermine the integrity of private political, or private religious faith, and the use of the state is where -- for the most personal decisions in American life -- that's where I draw the line.
WALTERS: Thank you. Now, Mr. President, rebuttal.
REAGAN: Yes. It's very difficult to rebut because I find myself in so much agreement with Mr. Mondale. I, too, want that wall that is in the Constitution of separation of church and state to remain there. The only attacks I have made are on people who apparently would break away at that wall from the government side using the government, using the power of the courts and so forth, to hinder that part of the Constitution that says the government shall not only not establish a religion, it shall not inhibit the practice of religion. And they have been using these things to have government, through court orders, inhibit the practice of religion -- a child wants to say grace in a school cafeteria and a court rules that they can't do it because it's school property. These are the types of things that I think have been happening in a kind of a secular way that have been eroding that separation, and I am opposed to that.
With regard to a platform on the Supreme Court, I can only say one thing about that: I have only appointed one member of the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O'Connor. And I'll stand on my record on that, and if I have the opportunity to appoint any more, I'll do it in the same manner that I did in selecting her.
WALTERS: Mr. Mondale, your rebuttal, please.
MONDALE: The platform to which the president refers, in fact, calls for a religious test in the selection of judges. And Jerry Falwell says that means we get two or three judges. And it would involve a religious test for the first time in American life. Let's take the example that the president cites. I believe in prayer. My family prays. We've never had any difficulty finding time to pray. But do we want a constitutional amendment adopted of the kind proposed by the president that gets the local politicians into the business of selecting prayers that our children must either recite in school or be embarrassed and ask to excuse themselves? Who would write the prayer? What would it say? How would it be resolved when those disputes occur? It seems to me that a moment's reflection tells you why the United States Senate turned that amendment down, because it will undermine the practice of honest faith in our country by politicizing it. We don't want that.
WALTERS: Thank you, Mr. Mondale. Our time is up for this round. We go into our second round of questionng. We begin again with Jim Wieghart. DEMOCRATIC DISAFFECTION
After that discussion, this may be like going from the sublime to the ridiculous, but here it goes. I have a political question for you, Mr. Mondale. Polls indicate a massive change in the electorate, away from the coalition that has long made the Democratic Party a majority. Blue-collar workers, young professionals, their children and much of the middle class now regard themselves as independents or Republican, instead of Democrats, and the gap, the edge the Democrats had in party registration, seems to be narrowing. I'd like to ask you, Mr. Mondale, what is causing this? Is the Democratic Party out of sync with the majority of Americans? And will it soon be replaced as the majority party by the Republicans? What do you think needs to be done about it, as a Democrat?
MONDALE: My answer is that this campaign isn't over yet, and when people vote I think you're going to see a very strong verdict by the American people that they favor the approach that I'm talking about. The American people want arms control. They don't want this arms race. And they don't want this deadly new effort to bring weapons into the heavens, and they want an American foreign policy that leads toward a safer world.
The American people see this debt and they know it's got to come down, and if it won't come down, the economy's going to slow down, maybe go into a recession. They see this tremendous influx and swamping of cheap foreign imports in this country, that has cost over 3 million jobs, given farmers the worst year in American history, and they know this debt must come down as well because it's unfair to our children.
The American people want this environment protected. They know that these toxic waste dumps should have been cleaned up a long time ago. And they know that people's lives and health are being risked because we've had an administration that has been totally insensitive to the law and the demand for the protection of the environment.
The American people want their children educated, they want to get our edge back in science and they want a policy headed by the president that helps close this gap that's widening between the United States and Europe and Japan. The American people want to keep opening doors. They want those civil rights laws enforced, they want the Equal Rights Amendment ratified, they want equal pay for comparable effort for women, and they want it because they've understood from the beginning that when we open doors, we're all stronger, just as we were at the Olympics. I think as you make the case the American people will increasingly come to our cause.
Mr. Mondale, isn't it possible that the American people have heard your message and they are listening but they are rejecting it?
MONDALE: Well, tonight we had the first debate over the deficit. The president says it'll disappear automatically. I've said it's going to take some work. I think the American people will draw their own conclusions. Secondly, I've said that I will not support the cuts in Social Security and Medicare and the rest that the president has proposed. The president answers that it didn't happen, or if it did it was resolved later in a comission.
As the record develops, I think it's going to become increasingly clear that what I'm saying and where I want to take this country is exactly where the country wants to go, and the comparison of approaches is such that I think will lead to further strength.
Mr. President, you and your party are benefiting from what appears to be an erosion of the old Democratic coalition. But you have not laid out a specific agenda to take this shift beyond Nov. 6. What is your program for America for the next decade, with some specificity?
REAGAN: Well, again I am running on the record. I think sometimes Mr. Mondale's running away from his. But I'm running on the record of what we have asked for, we'll continue to try and get things that we didn't get in the program that has already brought the rate of spending of government down from 17 percent to 6.1 percent. A program of returning authority and autonomy to the local and state governments that has been unjustly seized by the federal government. And you might find those words in a Democratic platform of some years ago. I know because I was a Democrat at that time and I left the party eventually because I could no longer follow the turn in the Democratic leadership that took us down an entirely different path, a path of centralizing authority in the federal government, lacking trust in the American people.
I promised when we took office that we would reduce inflation. We have, to one-third of what it was. I promised that we would reduce taxes. We did, 25 percent across the board. That barely held even with, if it did that much, with the gigantic tax increase imposed in 1977. But at least it took that burden away from them. I said that we would create jobs for our people and we did, 6 million in the last 20 or 21 months. I said that we would become respected in the world once again and that we would refurbish our national defense to the place that we could deal on the world scene and then seek disarmament, reduction of arms and hopefully an elimination of nuclear weapons. We have done that. All of the things that I said we would do -- from inflation being down, interest rates being down, unemployment falling -- all of those things, we have done. And I think this is something the American people see. I think they also know that we have, we had a commission that came in a year ago with a recommendation on education, on excellence in education, and today, without the federal government being involved other than passing on to them, the school districts, the words from that commission, we find 35 states with task forces now dealing with their educational problems, we find the schools are extending the curriculum to now have forced teaching of mathematics and science and so forth. All of these things have brought an improvement in the college entrance exams for the first time in some 20 years. So I think that many Democrats are seeing the same things this Democrat saw. The leadership isn't taking us where we want to go.
Mr. President, there is a, much of what you said affects the quality of life of many Americans, their income, the way they live and so forth. But there's an aspect to quality of life that lies beyond the private sector which has to do with our neighborhoods, our cities, our streets, our parks, our environment. In those areas, I have a difficulty seeing what your proram is and what you feel the federal responsibility is in these areas of the quality of life in the public sector that affects everybody. And even enormous wealth by one individual can't create the kind of environment that he might like.
REAGAN: There are tasks that government legitimately should enforce and tasks that government performs well, and you've named some of them. Crime has come down the last two years for the first time in many, many decades that it has come down or since we've kept records, two consecutive years, and last year it came down the biggest drop in crime that we've had. I think that we've had something to do with that, just as we have with the drug problem nationwide.
The environment, yes, I feel as strongly as anyone about the preservation of the environment. When we took office we found that the national parks were so dirty and contained so many hazards, lack of safety features, that we stopped buying additional parkland until we had rectified this with what was to be a five-year program, but it's just about finished already, a billion dollars, and now we're going back to budgeting for additional lands for our parks. We have added millions of acres to the wilderness lands, to the game refuges. I think that we're out in front of most, and I see that the red light is blinking so I can't continue. But I got more.
WALTERS: Well, you'll have a chance when your rebuttal time comes up perhaps, Mr. President. Mr. Mondale, now it's your turn for rebuttal.
MONDALE: The president says that when the Democratic Party made its turn, he left it. The year that he decided we had lost our way was the year that John F. Kennedy was running against Richard Nixon. I was chairman of Minnesotans for Kennedy; President Reagan was chairman of a thing called Democrats for Nixon. Now maybe we made a wrong turn with Kennedy but I'll be proud of supporting him all of my life, and I'm very happy that John Kennedy was elected, because John Kennedy looked at the future with courage, saw what needed to be done and understood his own government.
The president just said that his government is shrinking. It's not. It's now the largest peacetime government ever in terms of the take from the total economy. Instead of retreating, instead of being strong where we should be strong, he wants to make it strong and intervene in the most private and personal questions in American life. That's where government should not be.
WALTERS: Mr. President.
REAGAN: Before I campaigned as a Democrat for a Republican candidate for president, I had already voted for Dwight Eisenhower to be president of the United States. Applause So my change had come earlier than that. I hadn't gotten around to reregistering as yet. I found that was rather difficult to do but I finally did it.
There are some other things that have been said here, back when you said I might be able to dredge them up. Mr. Mondale referred to the farmers' worst year. The farmers are not the victims of anything this administration has done. The farmers were the victims of the double-digit inflation and the 21 1/2 percent interest rates of the Carter-Mondale administration and the grain embargo which destroyed our reliability nationwide as a supplier. Applause
All of these things are presently being rectified, and I think that we are going to salvage the farmers. As a atter of fact, there has been less than one-quarter of 1 percent of foreclosures of the 270,000 loans from government that the farmers have.
WALTERS: Thank you, Mr. President. We'll now turn to Diane Sawyer for her round of questions. ABORTION
I'd like to turn to an area that I think few people enjoy discussing but that we probably should tonight because the positions of the two candidates are so clearly different and lead to very different policy consequences, and that is abortion and right to life. I'm exploring for your personal views of abortion, and, specifically, how you would want them applied as public policy. First, Mr. President, do you consider abortion murder or a sin? And second, how hard would you work -- what kind of priority would you give in your second-term legislation -- to make abortion illegal, and, specifically, would you make certain, as your party platform urges, that federal justices that you appoint be pro-life?
REAGAN: I believe that in the appointment of judges, that all that was specified in the party platform was that they respect the sanctity of human life. Now, that I would want to see in any judge, and with regard to any issue having to do with human life. But with regard to abortion -- and I have a feeling that there's been some reference without naming it here in remarks Mr. Mondale tied to injecting religion into government -- with me, abortion is not a problem of religion. It's a problem of the Constitution.
I believe that until and unless someone can establish that the unborn child is not a living human being, then that child is already protected by the Constitution, which guarantees life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to all of us. Applause
And I think that this is what we should concentrate on, is trying. I know there was weeks and weeks of testimony before a Senate committee -- there were medical authorities, there were religious, there were clerics there -- everyone talking about this matter of pro-life. And at the end of all of that, not one shred of evidence was introduced that the unborn child was not alive. We have seen premature births that are now grown-up, happy people going around.
Also, there is a strange dichotomy in this whole position about our courts ruling that abortion is not the taking of a human life. In California some time ago, a man beat a woman so savagely that her unborn child was born dead with a fractured jaw, and the California state legislature unanimously passed a law that was signed by the then-Democratic governor -- signed a law that said that any man who so abuses a pregnant woman that he causes the death of her unborn child shall be charged with murder.
Now isn't it strange that that same woman could have taken the life of her unborn child and it was abortion and not murder? But if somebody else does it, that's murder. And it recognizes, it used the term "death of the unborn child." So this has been my feeling about abortion. That we have a problem now to determine, and all the evidence so far comes down on the side of the unborn child being a living human being.
A two-part follow-up. Do I take it from what you said about the platform then that you don't regard the language -- and don't regard in your appointments -- abortion position a test of any kind for justices, that it should be. And also, if abortion is made illegal, how would you want it enforced? Who would be the policing units that would investigate, and would you want the women who have abortions to be prosecuted?
REAGAN: The laws regarding that always were state laws. It was only when the Supreme Court handed down a decision that the federal government intervened in what had always been a state policy. Our laws against murder are state laws. So I would think that this would be the point of enforcement on this.
As I say, I feel that we have a problem here to resolve, and no one's approached it from that matter. It does not happen that the church that I belong to had that as part of its dogma; I know that some churches do. Now it is a sin if you're taking a human life. At the same time in our Judeo-Christian tradition we recognize the right of taking a human life in self-defense, and therefore I've always believed that a mother, if medically it is determined that her life is at risk if she goes through with pregnancy, she has a right then to take the life of even her own unborn child in defense of her own.
Mr. Mondale, to turn to you. Do you consider abortion a murder or a sin, and bridging from what president Reagan said, he has written that if society doesn't know whether human life in fact does begin at conception, as long as there is a doubt, that the unborn child should at least be given the benefit of the doubt, and that there should be protection for that unborn child.
MONDALE: This is one of the most emotional and difficult issues that could possibly be debated. I think your questions, however, underscore the fact there is probably no way that government should, or could, answer this question in every individual case and in the private lives of the American people. The constitutional amendment proposed by President Reagan would make it a crime for a woman to have an abortion if she had been raped or suffered from incest. Is it really the view of the American people, however you feel on the question of abortion, that government ought to be reaching into your living rooms and making choices like this? I think it cannot work, won't work, and will lead to all kinds of cynical evasions of the law. Those who can afford to have them will continue to have them. The disadvantaged will go out in the back alley as they used to do.
I think these questions are inherently personal and moral, and every individual instance is different. Every