Tuesday, April 04, 2006

It Didn't Happen Recently

Check out this interview between Walter Cronkite and President Ronald Reagan, shortly after Reagan took office. It includes such lovely exchanges as:

Mr. Cronkite. Moving on. Your hard line toward the Soviet Union is in keeping with your campaign statements, your promises. But there are some who, while applauding that stance, feel that you might have overdone the rhetoric a little bit in laying into the Soviet leadership as being liars and thieves, et cetera.

The President. Well, now, let's recap. I am aware that what I said received a great deal of news attention, and I can't criticize the news media for that. I said it. But the thing that seems to have been ignored-well, two things—one, I did not volunteer that statement. This was not a statement that I went in and called a press conference and said, "Here, I want to say the following." I was asked a question. And the question was, what did I think were Soviet aims? Where did I think the Soviet Union was going? And I had made it clear to them, I said, "I don't have to offer my opinion. They have told us where they're going over and over again. They have told us that their goal is the Marxian philosophy of world revolution and a single, one-world Communist state and that they're dedicated to that."

And then I said we're naive if we don't recognize in their performance of that, that they also have said that the only morality-remember their ideology is without God, without our idea of morality in the religious sense—their statement about morality is that nothing is immoral if it furthers their cause, which means they can resort to lying or stealing or cheating or even murder if it furthers their cause, and that is not immoral. Now, if we're going to deal with them, then we have to keep that in mind when we deal with them. And I've noticed that with their own statements about me and their attacks on me since I answered that question that way—it is the only statement I've made—they have never denied the truth of what I said.

Mr. Cronkite. You don't think that namecalling, if you could call it that, makes it more difficult when you do finally, whenever that is, sit down across the table from Mr. Brezhnev and his cohorts?

The President. No, I've been interested to see that he has suggested having a summit meeting since I said that.

Mr. Cronkite. Let me ask another question about being tough with the Russians. When Ambassador Dobrynin of the Soviet Union drove over to the State Department for the first time after the administration came in, his ear was turned away at the entrance to the basement garage, which he had been using, told that he had to use the street door like all the other diplomats had been doing. It was obviously tipped to the press that this was going to happen.

What advantage is there in embarrassing the Soviet Ambassador like that? A phone call would have said, "Hey, you can't use that door any longer." Was that just a macho thing for domestic consumption or

The President. I have to tell you, I didn't know anything about it until I read it in the paper, saw it on television myself. I don't know actually how that came about or what the decision was, whether it was just one of those bureaucratic things in the

Mr. Cronkite. You didn't ask Secretary Haig about it?

The President. No, and I just don't know

Mr. Cronkite. Don't you think the Russians kind of think we're childish when we pull one like that?

The President. I don't know. I don't know, or maybe they got a message.

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