Partial Transcript of Remarks of the Vice President, State Fair Grounds, Springfield, IL
Now, tonight there are many subjects which I could well discuss before this great audience. Certainly, however, there is one in view of the place in which I speak, one in view of the circumstances of this meeting which must stand out above all the rest. We know that Abraham Lincoln is the symbol of freedom throughout the world not just for America, but throughout the world. I know this. I know the leaders of the newly independent countries of Asia and Africa consider Lincoln, as we consider him, as a man who belonged not just to America, but to the ages and to the whole world.
And, so, speaking here in Springfield, certainly the theme of any speech during this campaign should be the one that he left with America a hundred years ago, and that theme has been restated over and over again. The issue in his time was whether a nation could be half slave and half free. The issue today is freedom for all the world. I say "freedom for all the world" because certainly if we are to keep our own freedom it is not enough to be selfish about it. It is not enough simply to defend it against communism. It is not enough just to hold the line, but without war, with our moral strength and our power. We must extend freedom to people throughout the world - and that is the great theme of our campaign in this year, 1960.
I say to you tonight that the greatest test you must put both of the candidates for the Presidency as well as their colleagues for the Vice-Presidency to is that one. Which of the two teams is better qualified, by experience, by judgment and by background, not only to keep the peace, but to keep the peace without surrender of principle or territory in the world, not only to keep freedom for America, but to develop policies that will extend freedom to all peoples throughout the world.
This is America's mission. This will be the great responsibility of the next President, and these are the tests to which you must put us all, and in that connection I will say again what I have said over and over again in this campaign: Because the issue is so important, because the man who is elected President will be not only President of this United States, but will also have these great responsibilities to which I refer, it is essential that the test not simply be the party label, that the test not simply be how did your grandfather or your father vote; that the test not simply be how somebody else told you to vote; the test must be from deep within yourself. You appraise the men. You look at our records. You look at our backgrounds, and you make the decision that America needs because America needs the best judgment of all of its people in this critical period - and it is this that I ask, and nothing less, from our people as you decide this election campaign.
And what are the things that should judge you? What are the things that should guide you? If I might name them, I would say, first of all, you must look at the records, the records of our candidates on both sides. I refer first to our own record. It is one which my colleague, Cabot Lodge, and I have helped to make. For 7½ years we have sat in the National Security Council, in the Cabinet; we have participated in the discussions leading to the great decisions of this administration in the field of foreign policy, on Quemoy and Matsu, on Lebanon, on others - and, therefore, you know, from reading our record, the kind of men we are. You know what you can expect from us.
Now, I know that there are those who don't think much of this record - and that's their right to say, if they believe it - but I say whenever they misrepresent the record it's my responsihility to "nail" them - and I'm going to every time.
As far as that record is concerned, I would only suggest this: I noted a few days ago that Mr. Kennedy equated himself apparently to Mr. Truman. He said this was like 1948 when Mr. Truman was running for the Presidency. Well, it apparently is like 1948 from his standpoint, from what he has been saying and the way he has been misrepresenting the facts, but, believe me, he's going to be "nailed" as Mr. Truman was not "nailed" in 1948. I can assure you of that.
What about the record, the record in the field of foreign policy? Well, my friends, you know what it is. You remember what it was in 1953 - America mired down in a war; America mired down in a war that we were not allowed to win; America mired down in a war that was the result of policies which were naive in dealing with the greatest threat to peace and freedom the world has ever seen - the Communist threat.
So, what has happened in these last 8 years? Oh, yes, many things of which people are critical, but nothing which can obscure the truth for which the American people will be eternally grateful - that under President Eisenhower's leadership we ended that war; we have avoided other wars, and we do have peace without surrender today.
Of course, I know that there are those who suggest that, "Well, that's the past, and looking at the present and the future we
certainly must have a different standard, that the American prestige is shot now that we're becoming second rate in everything, science and education, our economy, everything down the line," and all that I can say is this with regard to that: Certainly where there are weaknesses in our country we should point them out in order to correct them, but it isn't necessary to tear America down in order to build her up - and let's stand for America throughout the world.
An example of a kind of irresponsibility and loose talk that I don't like and I don't think Americans like was a statement by Senator Kennedy the other day in New York to this effect. I will quote it exactly - incidentally, without notes.
Incidentally, for your information, I sent a message to my negotiators for our next debate indicating that, while the rule in the first three debates was that neither of us was to use notes, as far as I'm concerned, Mr. Kennedy can have notes, but I'll come without them in the next debate - and we'll have it out in that way.
Then again what was it that he said? Well, he said: "I am tired of reading in the paper what Mr. Khrushchev is doing. I am tired of reading in the paper what Mr. Castro is doing. I want to be able to read in the paper what the President of the United States is doing."
All that I can say in answer to him is that if he'd stop talking a little while and start reading he'd find out what President Eisenhower is doing.
No, he isn't doing some of the things that Senator Kennedy has suggested. He isn't apologizing or expressing regrets for
defending the security of the United States, for example, and also he isn't doing what Mr. Khrushchev is doing. He isn't making a fool of himself at the United Nations, and we can be thankful for that.
But President Eisenhower is standing for the cause of peace and freedom, as he has and he will for the balance of his term, standing for it with dignity, never getting down to the level of the insulters and the crude people on the other side, standing with it in firmness, standing with it, I am sure, in a way that all Americans will appreciate.
These are the things that we know, and certainly, as we look to this record, it gives us some gnidelines for the future.
What else do you know about my colleague and I? Well, we know Mr. Khrushchev. We both have sat opposite him at the conference table. We both have had the opportunity to debate with him. We have had the opportunity also to test ourselves against him, and the American people know what we will do when we're in the ring with him. You're not buying an uncertain quantity, and we believe the American people want to know what they're going to get in these next 4 years - and you know with us what you're going to get.
Now, I noticed, for example, that Senator Kennedy was speaking in a very ridiculing way of the so-called debating with Mr. Khrushchev that I was doing while I was in Moscow. I'm going to tell you what happened and let you judge. I was there as a guest of the Soviet Union. I was there not for the purpose of starting an argument, but I was there to represent the President and the American people, I was hoping, at their best, and then there at the American exposition, the man who was our host walked up, in front of the radio, in front of the television cameras, also in front of the Russian workmen who were there, and he tried to insult our country. He tried to run us down. He indicated that he was stronger than we were. He indicated, in effect, that he could push us around. He had gotten away with this with other leaders of the free world who had been there, and I, as far as I was concerned, did these things. I did not lose my temper. I did not get down to his level. But I stood up for the United States of America, and I think that's what all people wanted me to do.
Oh, it would have been much easier to take it. It would have been much easier to apologize, but I can tell you that in the world today, we have to debate these great issues, and at every opportunity we must be prepared to, because this issue, as I will be saying in a few moments, will be decided primarily in the minds of men and in their hearts, and, therefore, we must, when our Nation comes under attack, stand up and speak up for America. I have in the past, and I will continue to in the future, I assure you, because I know the American people want me to do that.
Now, knowing Mr. Khrushchev, what do we say, my colleague and I, that America must do to keep the peace, keep it without surrender and extend freedom throughout the world? There are these things: One: Because this is a man who respects strength, who uses it brutally, it is essential that the United States be the strongest nation in the world militarily. What is the situation today? We are the strongest nation in the world. What will be the situation in our administration? We will continue to be. We're not going to rest on our present strength. We're never going to be satisfied with it. As long as we have this threat, we're going to do everything that is necessary to see that America has an absolute advantage so that Mr. Khrushchev or anybody else will never dare to start anything in the world.
This is the way we keep the peace with our strength.
There is a second element of strength which I wish to refer to. You can be the strongest nation in the world militarily, and it will mean nothing unless you have the diplomatic firmness that goes along with it, because you can be strong militarily and lose at the conference table everything that you might have gained through the position of military strength which you have built up.
And, looking at the record, I think we know what America must do at the conference table. First, we must do what we have done in the past. We must be firm on principle, standing for the right. We must never be belligerent, and that means never heating up the world atmosphere with a war of words, but standing for the right and standing for principle, recognizing that when you deal with the Communists, you are not dealing with men who follow the rules of the game of the free world. They are men who react altogether differently. They are men who have as their fanatical and ruthless design, conquering the world, and, therefore, they will break all the rules, and under those circumstances, the only langnage which they understand and which will keep them from starting anything is to be firm.
Now, having said that, may I say that one example of firmness that has worked has been the one that has been discussed in the papers in the past few days. You heard Senator Kennedy and me debate it a bit the other day, this argument about the Formosa Straits and Quemoy and Matsu. Five years ago that decision was made, by an overwhelming vote of the Senate of the United States. By resolution, the President of the United States was given the power to defend our ally, Formosa, and to defend it against any attack by the Chinese Communists, and in his discretion to determine whether an attack on the free islands which belonged to the Chinese Nationalists, whether such an attack was an absolute, actual attack on Formosa, itself.
An attempt was made during the course of the debate, an attempt made by well-intentioned men, but men who don't understand the Communist tactics, as they prove by this, and only 12 Senators, including Senator Kennedy, voted to deny to the President the right to move, in effect, until they had actually set foot on Formosa one way or another. In fact, what they said was: "We will draw a line. We'll draw a line leaving out these islands that are now free, because we don't want to get into a war over those islands."
And what happened? A majority of the Democrats, a majority of the Republicans, said: "No, you 12 people are wrong. We believe the President of the United States, if he's going to stop an aggression there, must have the power that this resolution would give, and we believe the lesson of history shows that once you start surrendering territory to a dictator, it never satisfies him. It only encourages him to ask for more."
And what happened? What happened? For 5 years, my friends, we find that it has stopped Communist aggression in that area. For 5 years it has avoided war. And, so, now today Senator Kennedy opens it up again. He says, "We'll change the policy again. We should deny to the President of the United States what to do in these islands, and, as a matter of fact, we will force our Nationalist allies to turn them over to the Communists."
And his arguments are hard to follow, but they go something like this: "If we turn these over, we won't get into a war; but if we keep them, or allow the Nationalists to keep them free, we may go into a war."
Well, my friends, the lesson of history again is that is not the way to peace, but it is the way to war. We learned it with Hitler. You remember - step after step - Danzig and the Sudetenland, and all the rest, and people said "this is the last, this is the last; we won't have to fight," but every time we gave him a little more, he wanted more, until finally he asked for so much that the whole world had to stand up in one of the worst wars in history.
And I say again we saw it in Korea. Here was Dean Acheson, certainly not wanting a war, and so indicating we wouldn't defend Korea, because we wouldn't want to get into a war over Korea. And what happened? The Communists marched in, and we had to go in to stop them and 30,000 American boys are dead today because of diplomatic foolishness of that type. I say the American people have learned their lesson. We're not going to encourage a dictator to start something by surrendering territory to him at the point of a gun.
And that's why again I call upon Senator Kennedy tonight to drop this position in the interest of the country. It's a naive position. It's dangerously irresponsible, and the only result of it will be to encourage the Chinese Communists to step up their attack. Every day that he persists in this frightening foolishness, every day that he continues to picture America as uncertain and divided, he increases the risk of an attack, the risk of war, and, therefore, I call upon him again tonight to surrender his own foolish position rather than to surrender America's position.
I call upon him to concede his error rather than concede bits of freedom to tyranny. I call upon him to surrender to what I believe is the overwhelming view of the American people in favor of firmness instead of surrendering free territory, free people, and freedom from war.
This is what we need if we're going to have the peace and freedom that we all want in the world. Because, you see, my friends, this is the policy that has succeeded, aud this is the policy that has kept the peace without surrender, and this is not a time to change that policy. It's the time to continue it.
And now, if I could go on to just one other point. I have spoken of our diplomatic firmness. I have spoken also of our military strength. We need, in addition to that, I would say, a point that I have emphasized in my previous trips to Illinois: that America must keep its economy strong and that the way that we can, the way that we can still move ahead and continue to move ahead of the Soviet Union, is to remain true to the principles that made America great, the princaples of the American frontier, the pioneer spirit; and, in that connection, just let me say this on this particular occasion.
We hear a lot about new frontiers these days, and there are great new frontiers, but the way to cross them is not through an old jalopy that we left behind in 1953, the Truman policies of 1953. The way to cross them is to stimulate the creative energies of 180 million free Americans, the pioneer spirit that has always been responsible for America's growth and for its power in the past.
And now again returning to my last point: I mentioned a moment ago, in addition to our military strength and our economic strength and our diplomatic firmness, we needed another kind of strength that was more decisive than all these. This was the strength that Lincoln had, and it is here that I would like to refer to something that I think all of you in this great land of Lincoln will particularly appreciate. I am often asked: "Isn't this a time for great leadership for the United States?"
And the answer is "Yes."
And then I'm asked: "Are you the man who can be the great leader of this century?"
And I cannot say that. I cannot say that for this reason. I cannot say it because that is for you to determine. That is for the people to determine. Let me tell you something about greatness. Greatness is not something where a President is concerned. It is not something which is the result of his ambition. It is not something that is written on a campaign poster. Greatness is something that a President can have only if he represents, at its best, the truest ideals, the greatest hopes, the finest spirit of the people.
And I say to you tonight that whoever is President in this period of the sixties will be great only to the extent that the American people are great and that he represents their inner thoughts and their best ideals, and that is why I call upon this great audience - you. You must see that America is great, and that means great in heart and great in soul, and great in spirit.
Remember, the decisive factor in this struggle will not be just our military strength and economic strength. It will be our ideals, ideals that caught the imagination of the world 180 years ago, ideals that Lincoln stood for 100 years ago, ideals that still are the hope of the world.
What are they? Our faith in God; our belief in the dignity of every man, woman, and child on this earth; our belief that the rights of men to freedom, to equality of opportunity, are rights that come from God and that cannot be taken away by men; our belief that every nation has a right to be independent; that all people have a right to be free, and our belief that these great ideals belong not just to ourselves, but that they belong to all mankind, and that it is America's destiny as a nation to extend them, not by conquest, not by war, but by the power of our example, by the power of our leadership, by the power of our moral and spiritual strength.
And, so, to this great audience in Illinois, I say: This can be a period of greatness for America, but it will be a period of greatness for America only to the extent that the churches and the homes and the schools of America develop within our people the idealism, the flaming patriotism that America needs to win the struggle of peace and freedom, and win it without war. We will win, because we're on the right side.
Richard Nixon, Partial Transcript of Remarks of the Vice President, State Fair Grounds, Springfield, IL Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/273942