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1987 Jul 17 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for CBS News (visiting Washington) (defending Reagan)

Document type:public statement
Document kind:TV Interview
Venue:British Embassy, Washington DC
Source:Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist:Forrest Sawyer, CBS
Editorial comments:0700-0740 MT gave four live TV interviews.
Importance ranking:Key
Word count:963
Themes:Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA)

Forrest Sawyer, CBS

Good morning, Prime Minister!

Prime Minister

Good morning!

Forrest Sawyer, CBS

You come to Washington at a very important time in American history, when the United States is viewing the hearings on the Iran Contra scandal—indeed the world is viewing those hearings—and the key message that seems to come out of them is that key foreign policy initiatives were undertaken in the White House without the President's knowledge. Does that information disturb you?

Prime Minister

Look! I am not going to comment on what is essentially an internal American problem. Yes, I know[fo 1] how much attention it is receiving, but what interests me is that America continues to take her leadership role in the Free World—and she is.

Many things are still going on at the same time, and if America does not take that leadership role, she injures not only herself but she injures the interests of the Free World.

Forrest Sawyer, CBS

You see what is happening now. There are many people who are saying that this President has been very badly injured by all of the political turmoil that surrounds his office. He is, they are saying, a lame duck, and that he is facing a Congress being run by another party.

Is that weakness so severe that he cannot govern in the way that you would like?

Prime Minister

No. You mentioned the phrase ‘lame duck’. I remember I came over soon after [ Ronald Reagan] the President was elected for a second term and you were already talking about a ‘lame duck President’ and I took you to task and said: ‘Do not be absurd! There are nearly four years to go!’[fo 2]

There is quite some time to go. The President has taken essential decisions recently. There is an excellent motion coming forward on the Iran-Iraq War in the United Nations Security Council; he has put forward vigorous proposals at GATT on trade; he is still continuing the essential arms control-arms reduction negotiations. Those are the big issues and let me say this:

You must not let your eyes be deflected from them, because it is that which affects the future.

Forrest Sawyer, CBS

We have a political scientist who is very well known here, James David Harvey of Duke University. He says that this issue, particularly the sale of arms to Iran, raises a powerful question of the credibility of the President and he says: ‘No informed chief of state in the world can believe his public policy statements now!’

Prime Minister

Then I am astonished, absolutely astonished!

I have dealt with the President for many many years and I have absolute trust in him.[fo 3]

Forrest Sawyer, CBS

It appears, on the face of it, that the arms talks with the Soviet Union have slowed down if not stalled. Is there a danger that the United States, by trying to breathe some new life into this Presidency, could make concessions that you would not like?

Prime Minister

The United States is not trying to breathe new life into this Presidency.

President Reagan is President and will continue to be President, and is taking a very active role in these matters. I have seen it. It is one of the things I have come over to talk about—on the next step. He is keeping his eyes on the future and we must.

America is the flagship of freedom and she must sail into the sunrise, not look back at what may or may not have happened!

These things are difficult to negotiate. You can say and outline what you would like, but you know, there is not trust between the United States and the Soviet Union or between the West and the Soviet Union, nor can there be with their record on human rights and Afghanistan. Therefore, you have got to make arrangements that ensure you can verify that they will[fo 4] do what they say will do and you have got to check it. That is not easy.

If they were not giving attention to detail, you would come along and say: ‘The President is not giving attention to detail!’ Now you are saying that he is and complaining it takes time! What are you trying to do?

Forrest Sawyer, CBS

You saw what happened at Reykjavik, in which the two super-powers very nearly came to an agreement to eliminate all nuclear missiles in the world within ten years—at least the nuclear missiles which those two super-powers control—which is an idea that is anathema to you.

Do you not worry that some concession might be made that you would not like?

Prime Minister

They did not come to an agreement. They just did not, and if they even had outline arrangements, first they will have to come and consult with NATO; second, it would have to have been negotiated. So they did not get anywhere near to that. It did not happen.[fo 5]

Let us cast our eyes forward! Let us look at the negotiations that are now taking place! It will be the first arms reduction negotiations if they are successful. We want them to be successful, but let us make sure that they are right.

Forrest Sawyer, CBS

Just a few moments left.

One Administration source says that President Reagan will talk to you about increasing the British presence in the Persian Gulf. You have said that you are doing quite enough already.

Is there a possibility that you would increase that presence?

Prime Minister

No. We are doing as much as we possibly can. We have quite a proportion of our naval ships there, bearing in mind all the other things we undertake, because as you know our navies are on the seas of the world.

We have been escorting our ships up and down the Gulf about five a week—it must now be about 150 we have escorted up and down.