Partial Transcript of the Speech of the Vice President at Muhlenburg College Gymnasium, Allentown, PA
Now, if I could turn to the campaign, to the issues, and of course, on this particular occasion I have the problem that always a presidential candidate has to select an issue to discuss of the great number that the American people are interested in, an issue of overriding importance, which will be one that all of you will want to know the position that I take, and I select tonight the issue that I discussed with Senator Kennedy last night. I select it because I believe it is the most important issue not only of this campaign, but of our time, of our generation, of this country.
I select it because I know that the people of this State as the people of the other 49 States of the Union, want leadership which will continue to do what President Eisenhower has done, and for which the American people will be forever grateful to him, leadership that will keep the peace, keep it without surrender, leadership that will extend freedom, extend it without war, leadership which will make us proud of our Nation in the council of nations, leadership in which the President of the United States, when he goes to the United Nations, as a man of dignity, standing for disarmament, standing for progress, standing for helping the unfortunate people of the world, and gaining respect rather than making a fool out of himself as did Mr. Khrushchev when he was there at the United Nations - and I know that everybody in this audience, everybody listening to me on television and radio, recognizes that the problems are difficult, difficult not because of our choosing, difficult not because of the other peace-loving nations - and, fortunately, my friends, they are most of the nations in this world, our allies in Europe and in Asia, the so-called neutrals in Africa, and in South America, and in other countries. Certainly in this period we realize that the problems are difficult only because there is on the loose in the world a great aggressive force, a force which is fanatical which is ruthless, whose leaders do not follow the rules of international diplomacy, as we would like them to be followed, whose leaders - and I know them, and I speak from knowledge - are men who have one objective, and one only, and that is to conquer the world, conquer it without war, if they can, but willing to use any means, if that becomes necessary, and because when we have this kind of leadership, aggressive, always probing, always attempting to embarrass, always moving against us around the world, the period ahead is going to be a difficult one.
I'm not going to stand before this or any other audience and say, "Lo I am the great leader who will solve all your problems. Just elect me and you can be sure that we're not going to have any more problems in Africa, Asia, Latin America. Elect me and give us enough money to spend and we'll solve all these problems." It isn't going to happen that way. It isn't going to happen that way, because when we deal with the problems that we have in the world today, we're going to have troubles. We're going to have them because they're going to make them, but the question is not whether we have troubles. The question is how we handle them, and we have been handling them well, and we're going to continue to handle them well in the next four years, if you give us the chance.
Now, the major qualification of whoever is to be the next President of the United States is this: If he is going to keep the peace without surrender, and if we are going to be able to extend freedom without war, it is whether he understands our enemy. I mean those who are the enemies of peace and the enemies of freedom around the world. It is whether he understands their tactics and knows how to deal with them, because unless he has that understanding all the good intentions in the world will be nothing, because the road to war and the road to surrender on the other side have been paved with good intentions where dictators were concerned. It was true with Hitler. It was true with Stalin. It will also be true with Khrushchev. We not only need good intention, but we need the tough-minded understanding of the kind of people we're dealing with and that's what we offer, and that's what I say raises a grave question tonight in the minds of the American people with regard to our opponents.
I'm going to talk very frankly about it. I feel it is my responsibility, my responsibility to the country, my responsibility also as a candidate for public office to tell you exactly why I think Cabot Lodge and I do offer some qualifications here that are needed to lead the world in this period.
I don't mean that we have them all. I don't mean that we are supermen, but that we do offer some of those qualifications, and it is my responsibility also, as it is my opponent's, to point out those areas where I think he may lack the qualifications that the world needs, particularly in this time.
There have been three great issues in which a grave doubt has been raised in the minds of the American people and in the minds of the people of the world as to whether my opponent in this campaign, the candidate of the other party, can keep the peace without surrender, can extend freedom throughout the world, and I give you those three examples in order of priority, but particularly; I would say not so much in order of priority as in order of historical sequence.
First, there was a problem confronting the President of the United States in the year 1955. It didn't seem very important certainly to the people here, I imagine, in Allentown Pa., not very important to the people even in San Francisco, Calif.; but it was vitally important to the cause of peace and freedom in the world, because he the President of the United States, made a mistake in handling this problem, it could have led to the same tragic course of events that resulted in a war in Korea.
Let me explain it briefly, the position my opponent took, the position the President and I took, why he was wrong, why we were right, and why we must go forward on our line and not on his.
Here's what it was. The Chinese Communists were shelling some islands off the coast of China, Quemoy and Matsu, not very big islands, not very many people on them, but they were free. They were also military outposts for the island of Formosa, with which we have and the Government of Formosa has a pact to defend. And, so, my opponent in 1955 joined with a group, fortunately a very small one, of only 12 Senators out of the 96 Members of the Senate at that time in attempting to deny to the President of the United States the right to use the forces of this country to defend those islands in the event an attack were launched on them, and the President considered that an attack was actually an attack aimed at Formosa. In effect, they said, draw a line, draw a line excluding these islands, because we don't want to get into a war over those islands, and they said this would be the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time.
And now what was the President's answer? The answer is one that all of us will understand. Is there a right war, at the right place, at the right time? The answer also is this: We had history here to look at. We went back to 1950, in 1950 exactly this same kind of muddy, woolly, thinking took place. Secretary Acheson, a very able man in many respects, particularly with his policies to Europe, but a man again who was blind in his policies to Asia - what did he do? He drew a line. He said, we will draw a line in the Pacific, and we will leave Korea out, this peninsula a militarily and potentially a very bad place to fight a war, the wrong war, the wrong place, the wrong time.
And what happened? It didn't mean peace, but it led to war, because when you're dealing with a dictator and when you have an area of freedom and when you slice a bit off and say you can have this, if you leave us alone, it doesn't satisfy him. It only encourages him to push you again, and to ask for more. It led to war in Korea then, and so, the President of the United States, remembering that experience with the Communists, said, "No; we will not take the advice of those who say we will draw a line excluding two islands of freedom."
We say that freedom, in effect, is indivisible when it comes to defense, particularly when the Communists say that these islands are, as they did say, certainly only an intermediate objective and that their real objective was Formosa, with whom we had our treaty.
And, so, the President's position prevailed; the position Senator Kennedy took with the other 11 Senators was voted down, and for 5 years we have kept the peace in that area. For 5 years the Communists have dared not to attack Formosa. For 5 years it has worked, and yet again my opponent in 1959, in a speech, twice in our television debate, said, we should draw a line excluding these islands, draw a line because we don't want to get into a war about them. And, so, my first charge tonight is this: That a man who made a mistake in 1955, that it would have been tragic, which would have led to war or surrender, or both, in my opinion, who repeated it again in 1959, when the policy had been working, who repeated it again in 1960 when the policy had been working - that this raises a very grave question in the minds of the American people as to whether he understands what peace demands in dealing with the Communists.
I'll tell you what it demands. You must never make a concession to them figuring that this is going to satisfy them. You must never do it because this kind of a concession only encourages them to blackmail you, and when you are dealing with men like this international blackmail eventually leads to war. So, on this score I say the American people raise a doubt.
The second point: We come to the Paris Conference. The Paris Conference, you remember, was the one that Mr. Khrushchev broke up. He said he broke it up at the time because the President had ordered the U-2 flights, you recall, which were ordered to protect the security of the United States, to get information about whether there was a surprise attack being mounted against the United States, and at that time Mr. Khrushchev demanded that the President of the United States apologize or express regrets for those flights. The President of the United States refused.
What did my opponent say? He said the President could have apologized or could have expressed regrets for those flights. He was wrong then. I'll tell you why he was wrong. He was wrong because an apology or expressing regrets to Khrushchev for something that we were doing to defend our own country would be wrong for any President, Republican or Democrat, and certainly it was wrong for President Eisenhower.
He was wrong then because again this kind of tactic, you see, in dealing with a man like Khrushchev wouldn't have satisfied him. It wouldn't have saved the Conference. It would only have encouraged him to stomp on us again, because that's the way he operates. I know this. I have dealt with him. The President knows this. He has dealt with him. Again the President was right. Our opponent was wrong.
So, here is a second point that raises a question about our opponent's judgment when these great problems come before him.
The third is a current one. I want to discuss it in some detail tonight, because it's very close to the United States. It's very complex. It's terribly difficult. It involves a people, wonderful people, that are among the best friends Americans have. I don't know how many of you have ever been to Havana. My wife and I have been there several times, and each time we always marvel at the great friendship that the people of Havana, the Cuban people, have for the people of the United States, and yet what have we found there? The people of Cuba, the most misgoverned people perhaps in the American Hemisphere, or one of the worst governed; Batista, a dictator who came into power long before President Eisenhower came in, who was inherited by us from the previous administration, and as a result there were revolutionary forces that wanted to get rid of him, and Mr. Castro took over these revolutionary forces and a lot of well-intentioned people in the United States felt that Mr. Castro was the answer to Cuba's problem. He would get rid of this dictator, Batista. And, so, they thought this was going to mean the end of the dictatorship in Cuba; it would mean a real revolution for the Cuban people, the 5 million; it would give them the good things of life, which they deserve, and it would give it to them in freedom. But what happened? Mr. Castro was not a man truly interested in the Cuban people. He was not a man who brought a true revolution to the Cuban people. He was a man who brought and is bringing to the Cuban people a dictatorship, a slavery, which in some respects is even worse than that of Mr. Batista, the man that he threw out and deposed. So, now the question is: What are we going to do about Mr. Castro? How do we get rid of Mr. Castro? And here you have to have some statesmanship. Here you have to have some responsibility, and I want to say this: The easy thing for me to say would be to say, "We'll put the Marines down in Cuba and we'll get rid of Castro," and we could do it in 24 hours. You know what would happen if we did that? We'd lose every friend we have in Latin America. We would lose our moral position in the world, and the 5 million Cuban people would be the victims. So, we don't do that.
And others say: "Well, why can't we do something else to get rid of this fellow, something stronger than we've been doing?" And again I say there are things that we can do, things that I have called for , things that the Government of the United States,
fortunately, is doing, but there are some things that we can't do and shouldn't do, for reasons that I will mention, things that seem to be logical.
Senator Kennedy called for such a course of action. You heard it briefly discussed in our debate last night. He called for - and get this - the U.S. Government to support a revolution in Cuba, and I say that this is the most shockingly reckless proposal ever made in our history by a presidential candidate during a campaign - and I'll tell you why.
Now, before we go into this question, many people will say, "But, Mr. Nixon, are you for Castro? Don't you think we ought to support the people that are against him?"
The question is not whether you're for or against Castro. The question is: What do you do? What can you properly do? What can the great United States of America legally and properly do to help the people of Cuba get the kind of government they deserve?
And this isn't easy. It isn't the easy shooting-from-the-hip way that Senator Kennedy has suggested.
As far as who is for or against Castro, let's look at the record. On that score, my record, as you might imagine, is crystal clear. I happen to have had a little experience in dealing with the Communists, and I seldom have been wrong in judging who they were or who were following that particular line. On that score I have been urging within the Government, for example, long before Castro came to power, and ever since he came to power, that we must recognize him either as a Communist or as a hopeless captive of the Communists. He's one or the other.
On the other hand, what is Senator Kennedy's record on that score Well, he wrote a book, "Strategy for Peace," and in that he makes this naive and almost unbelievable statement: "Castro is part of the legacy of Bolivar."
Now, all of the students here will know who Bolivar is. As a matter of fact, my first eighth-grade daughter knows. They studied Latin America. Most Americans know. He was the great liberator of the people of Latin America, a great hero, a fighter for freedom. To mention Castro and Bolivar in the same breath is blasphemy of the true fighters for freedom in Latin America, because, while Bolivar was a liberator, Castro is nothing but a cheap, egotistical enslaver - and that's what he is.
And, so, the question is not who is for or against Castro. I don't question that Senator Kennedy is against him. Certainly he wouldn't question that I am against him. The question is: How do you get rid of this man, this cancer among the American Republics?
Well, in that respect, we first have to look to our treaty commitment. We also have to look to our United Nations Charter, because the United States, if it means anything in the world, stands for doing the right thing. We do not break our treaties. We do not work against the United Nations. For example, in the Congo, instead of attempting to move in there unilaterally, as did Khrushchev, to take over that country, we have supported the U.N. and we have gained in prestige in the world despite what some of those people running down the United States have been saying in the past few weeks.
Now, here is the way we handle Castro: What we must do is quarantine him. This is what I recommended, as you may recall, in a speech I made in Miami a few days ago - quarantine him diplomatically; quarantine him economically. This means shutting him off from communication, in effect, diplomatically and economically from the United States. Now, this we have done. This we will continue to do, and I have been repeatedly urging it within the Government. It's been done, incidentally, over the objection of some well-intentioned, but hopelessly naive Castro apologists within the United States - and all that I can say with regard to Senator Kennedy's position is that he apparently is attempting to obscure his association with the views of this pro-Castro group as indicated in the book that I mentioned a moment ago or he must have thought now that there would be political advantage in taking a stronger position than I have taken, a radical position, instead of the strong and sound position that the administration has taken. And, so, what does he suggest? He comes up, as I pointed up, with the fantastic recommendation that the U.S. Government shall directly aid the anti-Castro forces both in and out of Cuba.
Now, every freedom-loving person in the United States - let's make it clear - is in sympathy with the democratic anti-Castro forces in Cuba and outside Cuba. We want them to win. We want them to win because we want the people to have the kind of government they deserve. We want them to realize their revolution, the things that Castro talked about, in freedom, but individual support is one thing. For the Government of the United States to aid revolutionary forces in another country would be intervention in the internal affairs of another nation - in this case, one of our sister Republics in the Organization of American States. You know what this would mean? We would violate right off the bat five treaties with the American States, including the Treaty of Bogota of 1948. We would also violate our solemn commitments to the United Nations, articles 1 and 2 as I pointed out in our debate last night - and already this statement has produced shock and dismay among the U.N. delegates from the Latin American countries. But the most dangerous implication which flows from Senator Kennedy's recommendation, if he does not immediately withdraw it - and I urge him to do s0 - is that this, as you can see, is a direct invitation for the Soviet Union to intervene militarily on the side of Castro. This gives them the excuse they have been waiting for, because now they can very easily say: "What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander." We can't play it both ways. They can say we can't object to the Soviet Union moving into Cuba under the Monroe Doctrine - we could at the present time - if the United States is attempting to intervene and move into the internal affairs of Cuba. Let's suppose the Soviet Union does move into Cuba. Suppose they do move in to help Castro. A major portion of the blame, I say, will rest on Mr. Kennedy, who two weeks before an election has made a statement which not only is provocative, but will be interpreted by the Soviets as an express invitation to do exactly that. And if they do come in you know what the result is? It can only mean a civil war in Cuba, which the United States would not avoid entering, and this result could easily be spread into a conflict, into a world war, that every American of both parties wants to avoid; and I say that Senator Kennedy owes it to the Nation to put the cause of peace and freedom before political consideration and to retract this immature, rash, and dangerous suggestion that he has made.
Now, some of you who heard the debate, though, will remember that he said: "But, after all, this is nothing new," that we helped, he said, the Castro forces get arms and ammunition in the United States when they were supporting their revolution against Batista. This is one of the most sophomoric comments, incidentally, that he has made in any of these debates, because what he says is true, but this was not action by the U.S. Government. This was action by individual Americans. What he is calling for is the U.S. Government, not individual Americans, to support a revolution - and that is an entirely different thing, and the most tragic part of the episode is that this was not necessary. The quarantine proposal will work. It worked with the Arbenz Communist government in Guatemala which we inherited from our predecessors. It will work, I believe, with Cuba.
And on the other side there is the wrong and demagogic way - the right that I have pointed out, the wrong which Senator Kennedy has advocated - and I say this is a way of shooting from the hip on matters gravely affecting the security of the United States.
And, so, finally, let's look at the record, all three, the position on Quemoy and Matsu - slice off a bit of freedom; maybe it will lead to peace; the position on the summit conference - express regrets to Khrushchev; maybe we can save the conference, and then this latest episode with regard to Cuba. I think when you look at these three episodes that this should convince many Americans that they could not rest well at night with a man with such a total lack of judgment as Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces in this critical period.
These are strong words, but these are difficult times, and strong words are necessary, and I intend to speak them from now on throughout this campaign so that the American people know---
It is President Eisenhower's judgment, his avoidance of mistakes of the kind I have just described - that's why we have been able to keep the peace, and if a President were to make mistakes like those Senator Kennedy would have made in these three incidents the result could only lead to disaster for ourselves and the free world; in my opinion, to war or surrender.
Now, so much for his position. Let me turn briefly to ours.
What do we offer?
Well, first, I have spoken of my experience. I want to say a word about my running mate's. I don't think that any man in the world today has had more experience or could have done a better job in fighting for the cause of peace and freedom than has Cabot Lodge, our Ambassador to the United Nations.
Now, why is this important?
Because he is going to work with me as a partner in strengthening the instruments of peace, in strengthening the United Nations, as he pointed out in his speech just a couple of days ago, in developing new instruments of peace. He also will be able to undertake the direction on a day-to-day basis of winning the struggle for freedom in Asia, in Africa, in Latin America, to which I have often referred.
The next point that I should make: What else do we offer?
We offer the experience that I have referred to. We are men who know the Communist leaders. We have dealt with them, and I think the American people know how we have dealt with them in the past, and they want us to continue to deal with them that way in the future because that is the way to peace without surrender.
Now, what are the things that we will do?
First, knowing those who oppose us, we will keep this Nation the strongest in the world, recognizing that unless we are the strongest in the world we cannot be the guardians of peace.
We will see that the economy of this Nation moves forward, and I have made recommendations in this field that will move her forward in many, many areas, move us forward in a way that America will always maintain the tremendous advantage that we have economically today over the Soviet Union.
Let me just mention one example that particularly will be of interest on this campus. If we're to move forward, we cannot afford to waste the talents of any young man or woman who has the ability to go to college and to make a contribution through a college education to his country.
Now, how do we accomplish that? The easy way to accomplish that is to say: "Oh, the Federal Government should set up a program to do it all." Now, the Federal Government should play a part, but I say the best way to do it is this: The Federal Government should set up scholarships, a limited number, for those who are unable to develop the funds or to get the funds to borrow money and to repay a loan, scholarships to be given out on the basis of both need and ability. Second, we should continue and expand our loan program; but, third, we should add to that, in the American tradition, a provision whereby the parents and others who pay college tuitions and expenses can have tax deductions and credit for those expenses.
With this three-pronged program, we will see that young Americans get the education that they want; but, returning to my basic theme again, keeping America strong militarily, keeping her strong economically, and, in addition to that, the firm diplomacy, to which I referred, the last point that I will make is one that I have often referred to in our debates but I would not want to leave this great college campus without emphasizing it for just a moment.
Too often in these discussions of foreign affairs we become obsessed with the problems of the moment. It's Cuba or Quemoy and Matsu. It's military power and missiles. It's the economic struggle, whether or not our rate of growth is as fast as it ought to be. All of these things are important, but, my friends, just remember this: Whether America and the free world wins the struggle for peace and freedom is not going to be decided in the final analysis by our military strength or our economic strength or even by our diplomacy. All of these things can hold the line, but remember that when we talk solely in terms of military strength and economic strength we are meeting the enemies of freedom only on the grounds that they choose. We have something more to offer. We have something to offer to the world that we in America cherish, but too often we take for granted.
I know what it means. When I was in Poland - I have often described this - I remember a year ago coming into the streets of Warsaw on a Sunday afternoon and seeing 250,000 Poles on the streets that day, cheering at the tops of their voices, shouting "Niech zyje America" - "Long live America" - stopping our car 8 times in the heart of Warsaw and swarming around it, running up, grabbing our hands, singing, shouting, and, looking into their eyes, over half of them were crying. Why? Not because America was strong militarily. Khrushchev had bragged of that kind of strength. He had been there a couple of weeks before and they didn't give him that kind of reception. Not because we were a rich country. They knew that. But because to them behind the Iron Curtain and to millions on this earth America stands for more than military might, more than materialism. We stand for ideals, for moral and spiritual strength, for a faith, for a faith that caught the imagination of the world a hundred and eighty years ago. It lives here. It lives in our hearts, and it is the hope of the world today - our faith in God; our belief in the dignity of all men; our belief that the rights that men have to be free, that nations have to be independent, come not from men, but from God, and cannot be taken away by men.
Oh, these things may sound trite and old, but remember this is what America stands for. It is as we project this to the world that we will win this struggle, and this is where we need your help. We need the help of the schools and the churches, the homes of America, so that young Americans will be proud of our heritage; they will know our heritage, and they will be strong in the faith that we have, because if America is strong morally and spiritually whoever is President of this country will be able to lead the free nations to victory, lead them to victory without war. Why? Because we are on the right side. Because we are on the side of freedom, on the side of justice, against the forces of atheism, injustice, and slavery.
And this is what we ask tonight from you. We say not that we offer an easy way. We say not that we have a panacea, but my colleague and I say: We know who our enemies are. We have faith in America. We don't think she's second rate. We believe that America can lead the world and lead her and keep the peace without surrender. We believe that we can extend freedom without war, and we believe, with your help, we can do the job, and if you think that we can do the job then we ask you to go out and work for us from now until election day.
Richard Nixon, Partial Transcript of the Speech of the Vice President at Muhlenburg College Gymnasium, Allentown, PA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/274112