The American Presidency Project
John T. Woolley & Gerhard Peters • Santa Barbara, California return to original document
• John F. Kennedy
Answers by Senator John F. Kennedy to Seven Questions Submitted by the Associated Press
September 26, 1960

1. What makes you think you are better qualified than your opponent to be President of the United States?

I will leave my comparison to the votes in November. But I run for the Presidency after 18 years in the service of our Nation - 4 as a naval officer in the South Pacific and 14 as a Member of the House and Senate - convinced that I can best contribute to my country at this time in the executive branch, where a new and vigorous approach will be needed to win the peace. Based on views dating back to my 1939 visit to the Soviet Union, my book in 1940 on England's unpreparedness for war, and my active participation on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I believe that America in the sixties will urgently need leadership capable of summoning every element of our strength to meet our commitments around the world. And my repeated visits to every State in the Union convince me that the American people are ready for that kind of new leadership.

2. Do you believe you would have more success in getting a legislative program through Congress than President Eisenhower did, and if so, why?

Every objective observer agrees that the Congress will continue to be strongly Democratic - that a continuation of divided Government will mean continued inaction on vital problems - and that a Democratic President, with long experience in both the House and the Senate, and with a mandate from the people, would be better able to work in harmony with the Congress to get this country moving again.

3. Won't the program you are advocating cost more money than now is being spent by the Federal Government? Would you recommend a tax increase to cover any added outlays?

This country can afford to meet all of its basic needs - even if that requires increased outlays to give protection and priority to both our retaliatory and our conventional forces, to build schools in areas of critical shortage, to hold out the hand of friendship to new nations in search of stability, and other programs I have discussed. Some of that increase can be financed from savings on other programs - cutting down our farm surpluses and reducing waste in the Pentagon, for example. Some of it may have to be financed by a shift in our spending programs until our priority needs have been met. Others can be financed through closing tax loopholes and better enforcing our tax laws. Some programs - such as medical care for the aged and self-liquidating power projects - are not a burden on the taxpayers.

Above all, I am convinced that a nation on the move, growing at a more rapid rate than we have for the past eight years - with more people working and more industries operating at full capacity - will produce far more revenues without an increase in taxes. But there is no doubt in my mind that the American people would meet any sacrifice asked of them if it meant the difference in our survival and national security.

4. Do you believe American prestige has sagged in the world? If so, how would you restore it?

The sag of American prestige is evident around the world. A Gallup Poll found a majority of citizens in 10 foreign capitals convinced that Russia would outstrip us by 1970. In recent years, we have seen attacks on our leaders and good name, we have seen friends become neutral or hostile, and the world has seen us apparently standing still in areas where the Communists are pushing ahead. The next President must restore our image of a Nation acting with vitality both at home and abroad.

But prestige will not be restored by any massive public relations operations. We must earn the respect and friendship of other nations - by assuring them of our ability to protect them from war, by demonstrating an earnest desire for peace, by evincing an understanding of their own problems rather than merely enlisting them as allies against communism, and, above all, by practicing at home what we preach abroad: Human rights and equality, economic progress and security, and educational and scientific achievements second to none - while emphasizing our devotion to liberty and self-determination for all our spiritual advantage as well as our material advantages.

5. What would you do as President to bring about greater equality among the races in the United States?

All men are already created equal. The role of Government is to protect them in the enjoyment of their rights and make certain of their equality of opportunity. In addition to his leadership on new legislation designed to implement the full constitutional rights of every American, the next President must carry out the Civil Rights Commission recommendations for executive action, such as strengthening the Governments Contracts Committee. The executive branch as an employer and as a law enforcement agency, must set a high standard for all to follow. Finally, the President must be a moral leader - using the educational and inspirational powers of his office to achieve the goals of harmony and justice our national responsibilities require.

6. In your judgment will the so-called religious issue be a decisive factor in the election outcome?

I hope that no one will cast his vote in this election on religious grounds. With all of the critical issues this Nation is facing, at home and abroad, I cannot believe that many voters - once they have satisfied themselves as to the sincerity of my views on church and state, and in support of the American Constitution - will be influenced by appeals to prejudice.

7. Do you believe American security and intelligence operations have been satisfactory or bungled? What action would you take to avoid a repetition of code clerk defection and the U2 incident?

I do not think that any candidate in any election should charge "bungling" in our security and intelligence operations without complete access to executive files. I am sure there is a common desire by all Americans of both parties to provide the most effective system - and, while it is difficult to provide complete protection on all occasions against human frailty, the next administration, whether Democratic or Republican, must give constant vigilance to improving these efforts. But may I suggest that a question of equal importance is what is done with the intelligence reports after they are submitted - and whether we are taking action in advance of the crisis stage on problems which are clearly reported to be arising.

Citation: John F. Kennedy: "Answers by Senator John F. Kennedy to Seven Questions Submitted by the Associated Press", September 26, 1960. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=74218.
 
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