1980 Presidential Candidate Debate: Governor Ronald Reagan and President Jimmy Carter – 10/28/80
Above is the video of the complete debate. Below is the 8th part of the transcript that deals with the question of the opponent’s greatest weakness among other things. This segment begins at 1:20 minute mark.
October 28, 1980
The Carter-Reagan Presidential Debate
MR. SMITH: Thank you Mr. President, Governor Reagan. We now go to another question – a question to President Carter by Barbara Waiters.
MS. WALTERS: Thank you. You have addressed some of the major issues tonight, but the biggest issue in the mind of American voters is yourselves – your ability to lead this country. When many voters go into that booth just a week from today, they will be voting their gut instinct about you men. You have already given us your reasons why people should vote for you, now would you please tell us for this your final question, why they should not vote for your opponent, why his Presidency could be harmful to the nation and, having examined both your opponent’s record and the man himself, tell us his greatest weakness.
MR. CARTER: Barbara, reluctant as I am to say anything critical about Governor Reagan, I will try to answer your question. First of all, there is the historical perspective that I just described. This is a contest between a Democrat in the mainstream of my party, as exemplified by the actions that I have taken in the Oval Office the last four years, as contrasted with Governor Reagan, who in most cases does typify his party, but in some cases, there is a radical departure by him from the heritage of Eisenhower and others. The most important crucial difference in this election campaign, in my judgment, is the approach to the control of nuclear weaponry and the inclination to control or not to control the spread of atomic weapons to other nations who don’t presently have it, particularly terrorist nations. The inclination that Governor Reagan has exemplified in many troubled times since he has been running for President – I think since 1968 – to inject American military forces in places like North Korea, to put a blockade around Cuba this year, or in some instances, to project American forces into a fishing dispute against the small nation of Ecuador on the west coast of South America. This is typical of his long-standing inclination, on the use of American power, not to resolve disputes diplomatically and peacefully, but to show that the exercise of military power is best proven by the actual use of it. Obviously, no President wants war, and I certainly do not believe that Governor Reagan, if he were President, would want war, but a President in the Oval Office has to make a judgment on almost a daily basis about how to exercise the enormous power of our country for peace, through diplomacy, or in a careless way in a belligerent attitude which has exemplified his attitudes in the past.
MR. SMITH: Barbara, would you repeat the question for Governor Reagan?
MS. WALTERS: Yes, thank you. Realizing that you may be equally reluctant to speak ill of your opponent, may I ask why people should not vote for your opponent, why his Presidency could be harmful to the nation, and having examined both your opponent’s record and the man himself, could you tell us his greatest weakness?
MR. REAGAN: Well, Barbara, I believe that there is a fundamental difference – and I think it has been evident in most of the answers that Mr. Carter has given tonight – that he seeks the solution to anything as another opportunity for a Federal Government program. I happen to believe that the Federal Government has usurped powers of autonomy and authority that belong back at the state and local level. It has imposed on the individual freedoms of the people, and there are more of these things that could be solved by the people themselves, if they were given a chance, or by the levels of government that were closer to them. Now, as to why I should be and he shouldn’t be, when he was a candidate in 1976, President Carter invented a thing he called the misery index. He added the rate of unemployment and the rate of inflation, and it came, at that time, to 12.5% under President Ford. He said that no man with that size misery index has a right to seek reelection to the Presidency. Today, by his own decision, the misery index is in excess of 20%, and I think this must suggest something. But, when I had quoted a Democratic President, as the President says, I was a Democrat. I said many foolish things back in those days. But the President that I quoted had made a promise, a Democratic promise, and I quoted him because it was never kept. And today, you would find that that promise is at the very heart of what Republicanism represents in this country today. That’s why I believe there are going to be millions of Democrats that are going to vote with us this time around, because they too want that promise kept. It was a promise for less government and less taxes and more freedom for the people.
MR. SMITH: President Carter?
MR. CARTER: I mentioned the radical departure of Governor Reagan from the principles or ideals of historical perspective of his own party. I don’t think that can be better illustrated than in the case of guaranteeing women equal rights under the Constitution of our nation. For 40 years, the Republican Party platforms called for guaranteeing women equal rights with a constitutional amendment. Six predecessors of mine who served in the Oval Office called for this guarantee of women’s rights. Governor Reagan and his new Republican Party have departed from this commitment – a very severe blow to the opportunity for women to finally correct discrimination under which they have suffered. When a man and a women do the same amount of work, a man gets paid $1.00, a women only gets paid 59 cents. And the equal rights amendment only says that equality of rights shall not be abridged for omen b the Federal Government or by he state governments. That is all it says a simple guarantee of equality of opportunity which typifies the Democratic arty, and which is a very important commitment of mine, as contrasted with Governor Reagan’s radical departure from the long-standing policy of his own party.
MR. SMITH: Governor Reagan?
MR. REAGAN: Yes. Mr. President, once again, I happen to be against the amendment, because I think the amendment will take this problem out of the hands of elected legislators and put it in the hands f unelected judges. I am for equal rights, and while you have been in office for four ears and not one single state – and most f them have a majority of Democratic legislators – has added to the ratification r voted to ratify the equal rights amendment. While I was Governor, more than eight years ago, I found 14 separate instances where women were discriminated against in the body of California law, and I had passed and signed into law 14 statutes that eliminated those discriminations, including the economic ones that you have just mentioned – equal pay and so forth. I believe that if in all these years that we have spent trying to get the amendment, that we had spent as much time correcting these laws, as we did in California – and we were the first to do it. If I were President, I would also now take a look at the hundreds of Federal regulations which discriminate against women and which go right on while everyone is looking for an amendment. I would have someone ride herd on those regulations, and we would start eliminating those discriminations in the Federal Government against women.
MR. SMITH: President Carter?
MR. CARTER: Howard, I’m a Southerner, and I share the basic beliefs of my region that an excessive government intrusion into the private affairs of American citizens and also into the private affairs of the free enterprise system. One of the commitments that I made was to deregulate the major industries of this country. We’ve been remarkably successful, with the help of a Democratic Congress. We have deregulated the air industry, the rail industry, the trucking industry, financial institutions. We’re now working on the communications industry. In addition to that, I believe that this element of discrimination is something that the South has seen so vividly as a blight on our region of the country which has now been corrected – not only racial discrimination but discrimination against people that have to work for a living – because we have been trying to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps, since the long depression years, and lead a full and useful life in the affairs of this country. We have made remarkable success. It is part of my consciousness and of my commitment to continue this progress. So, my heritage as a Southerner, my experience in the Oval Office, convinces me that what I have just described is a proper course for the future.
MR. SMITH: Governor Reagan, yours is the last word.
MR. REAGAN: Well, my last word is again to say this: We were talking about this very simple amendment and women’s rights. And I make it plain again: I am for women’s rights. But I would like to call the attention of the people to the fact that that so-called simple amendment would be used by mischievous men to destroy discriminations that properly belong, by law, to women respecting the physical differences between the two sexes, labor laws that protect them against things that would be physically harmful to them. Those would all, could all be challenged by men. And the same would be true with regard to combat service in the military and so forth. I thought that was the subject we were supposed to be on. But, if we’re talking about how much we think about the working people and so forth, I’m the only fellow who ever ran for this job who was six times President of his own union and still has a lifetime membership in that union.