Jimmy Carter: On Campaign Debates, September 23, 1980 (from
Public Papers of the President, Carter, 1980, pages 1871
Q. My name
is Marc Brown. I'm from Harbor City. Mr. President, the general
consensus among the informed voting public is that John Anderson,
with a moderate stance on most issues, would draw more votes away
from your candidacy than from Ronald Reagan. Is that why you will
not debate with Mr. Anderson and Mr. Reagan on the same platform?
I think your analysis is right. As you know, Anderson and Reagan
are both Republicans, and Anderson's voting record the 20 or so
years he was in Congress is very similar to the positions that
have been staked out by Governor Reagan. In the campaign Anderson,
however, has taken some extremely liberal positions on a few highly
publicized points. Public Papers of the Presidents, Carter, 1980,
p.1872 I have no objection at all to debating both Reagan and
Anderson, but the first debate that I want to hold is a one-to-one,
man-on-man debate with Governor Reagan. That's what I want, and
that's what I determined to get. Marc, I might add one thing.
Following that debate with Reagan, man to man, I'll be glad to
debate Reagan, Anderson, Clark, Commoner, anyone who has a theoretical
opportunity to be elected President. I'm not trying to avoid debates.
I'm eager to see them. was Governor of a State. And I campaigned
for President for 4 years and got to travel all over this Nation
and to learn about its problems and to study what I might do if
I should become President. Public
Q. Hi, I'm
Noelle Naito, from Costa Mesa. And any time you're in Orange County,
my dad says don't hesitate to drop in for dinner, but my mom says
think twice, because you'll have to cook and clean. My question
is: What was your reaction to the debates last night? Did you
find yourself agreeing more with John Anderson or Ronald Reagan?
How do you know I didn't watch "Midnight Express"? [Laughter]
I watched them. I watched the debate, and I thought it was very
interesting between the two. I think it would not be appropriate
for me to say who I think won or lost. My judgment is that John
Anderson's wife thought he won and Ronald Reagan's wife thought
he won. [Laughter] And I'm not going to get in an argument between
the two wives....I think the debate process is a healthy one.
I believe that the debate between myself and President Ford in
1976 was very constructive, not only for me and President Ford
but for the country. I believe it is good to have the major emphasis
on the debates, at least in the initial stages, between the nominee
of the Democratic Party and the nominee of the Republican Party...
know, Congressman Anderson ran as a Republican. He never won a
primary, even in his home State. He never won a caucus contest,
even in his home State. And after he was defeated or eliminated
as a Republican, then he decided to run as an Independent...
... In my
judgment it's better for the Nation and for my campaign and for,
I believe, Governor Reagan's campaign to have the sharp issues
drawn in the minds of the American people between the two candidates
who do have a chance to win. And so that's why I look forward
to debating Governor Reagan on a one-on-one basis to sharply define
those issues between me and him. Following that, as I said earlier
when Marc asked me the question, I'll be very glad to debate Anderson
...But I don't
want to answer your question by saying who I think did best and
who I think did worse. I think I came out okay last night. [Laughter]
Thank you very much.
Q. Did the
American people learn more about Ronald Reagan as a candidate
and John Anderson as a candidate through the debates on Sunday
night, do you feel?
I don't know. I watched the debate. I was interested in it. It's
hard to say what was learned there. My own assessment is they
basically repeated their standard campaign statements that they
had made for many months.
Q. I think
the question being is the debate valuable in form of
I think so. The debate would be very valuable if Reagan would
accept my challenge to debate me. He's not willing to do that.
It doesn't help to have a forum with three people or four people
or five people on the stage when you just answer--like a "Meet
the Press" sort of thing. What is important is for the Democratic
nominee, who has a chance to win, and the Republican nominee,
who has a chance to win, to debate each other to let the American
people know the sharp differences that exist between me and Reagan
and between the Republican and Democratic Party...
a third candidate, a Republican, who entered the Republican primaries
and caucuses, who never won a single contest, even in his home
State, now come as a defeated Republican and seek equal status
along with the Democratic and Republican nominees is what I object
I debate with Reagan, man-to-man, at any place in our country
Q. Do you
expect this to happen?
I hope so--then I will be glad to debate Anderson plus Mr. Clark
plus Mr. Commoner and Reagan all together in the kind of a forum
arrangement. But I think that wouldn't be nearly so valuable to
the American people as a direct debate between the two people
that have a chance to be elected President.