John F. Kennedy photo

Press Conference of Senator John F. Kennedy, Lockheed Air Terminal, Burbank, CA

September 09, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Ladies and gentlemen, I want to express my thanks to Governor Brown for being here. We just concluded a two-day tour in the valley which I think was a most impressive tour, and I think was very helpful in the campaign. We will speak here tonight. I would be delighted to answer any questions that anyone might have.

QUESTION. Senator, since the day after your nomination you have been talking about the sacrifices that you will ask of the American people. Can you tell us what sacrifices you have in mind?

Senator KENNEDY. I think what I have been talking about is a national atmosphere, which does not accept what we are doing now in the United States as good enough. In addition, I think the United States will have to make a bigger effort in the field of national defense than it is generally prepared to make today. Therefore, those are burdens that we will have to assume. There may be other burdens in the 1960's that we will have to assume to maintain our freedom. What I am really concerned about is a question of atmosphere and recognition that the United States can do more than it is doing. I remember a story in a national magazine at the time the President returned from India which reported a discussion in the Cabinet about whether the United States could play a better role in the development of the economy of the Indians, and I think there was a dispute between the Cabinet members and the President as to whether we should, and I think they finally concluded that we could not.

I don't accept that view, because I think that those things which must be done can be done by this country. When I talk about a future which is going to be a very testing one, I am talking about the national mood and atmosphere, which takes a broader view of the capacity of the United States to effect events.

QUESTION. Senator Kennedy, Correspondent Merriman Smith predicted today that you and Mr. Nixon would try to outdo each other in attacking Mr. Khrushchev in his visit. Do you agree that you and Mr. Nixon should agree on a common posture during this period?

Senator KENNEDY. Well, I don't know. I have not talked to Mr. Smith. I am not running against Mr. Khrushchev. I think that I will be talking about foreign policy when Mr. Khrushchev is here, because it is a great issue, not only our relations with the Communist world, but also with the underdeveloped world, so I could not comment on the story because I don't know what the foundation is.

QUESTION. Also, today Mr. Harry Truman said this is going to be a very rough campaign. Do you agree?

Senator KENNEDY. Well, he is a vigorous exponent of a very hard-hitting, hard-working Democratic philosophy. I think the campaign is going to be hard-hitting in the sense that we are going to try to bring home what I consider to be a very clear contrast between the record of the Democratic Party and the record of the Republican Party and what I consider to be a very clear contrast in their promise of the future. In that way it is going to be hardhitting, but I don't think it is going to be hardhitting in a personal sense. I have not discussed Mr. Nixon for some days. I am discussing the party difference.

QUESTION. Senator, several days ago Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and about 150 Protestant ministers and laymen joined in a statement in which they said, quoting them, that you would be "under extreme pressure from the hierarchy," and I am quoting there, "of your Church to bring American foreign policy into line with Vatican objectives."

They said that while you have stated you wouldn't be influenced by Church pressures, quoting again "his Church insists that he is duty bound to submit to its direction."

And they also said "this unresolved conflict leaves doubt in the minds of millions of our citizens."

I am wondering if you would have any comment on this statement and also on the fact that the statement was issued?

Senator KENNEDY. I wouldn't respond to Dr. Peale.

QUESTION. Senator Kennedy ---

Senator KENNEDY. I have made my position very clear on this question. I am a member of my Church and I know my responsibilities as a citizen of the United States and the support of the Constitution. I have been in the Congress for 14 years and have met those responsibilities. I wouldn't attempt to reply to Dr. Peale or to anyone who questions my loyalty to the United States. I am delighted to respond to those who want to ask what my position is. But for those who are not interested in my position and prefer to state it themselves, it really is very difficult to state it by me and give any answer which would satisfy them.

QUESTION. Senator, am I correct that you believe Dr. Peale has questioned your loyalty?

Senator KENNEDY. I would think that he has questioned my ability to fulfill my constitutional oath, because he states I would be unable to fulfill it because my Church would place pressure on me which I would succumb to. I don't accept the view that my Church would place pressure upon me. I don't think there is any evidence of that in the United States. The Constitution is very clear on the separation of church and state. I have been clear and precise in my commitments to that Constitution, not merely because I take the oath which is taken to God, but also because I believe that it represents the happiest arrangement for the organization of a society.

Therefore, I believe in that theory strongly, just as strongly as Dr. Peale or anyone else. I don't know what I can do other than state that as my conviction, state that as my record, and state that that is the philosophy which would guide me in the Presidency. Beyond that, then it just becomes a question as to whether in 1960 we are going to carry out the Constitution which says there shall be no religious tests for office, or whether we are going to decide because I was born a Catholic and lived a Catholic that for some reason I am unfit to hold office. That is the question.

QUESTION. Senator, when you describe the separation of church and state as the happiest arrangement for good, free society---

Senator KENNEDY. That is correct.

QUESTION (continued). Did you also mean the wisest and best arrangement?

Senator KENNEDY. Yes, I think it is. In many countries in Europe and in tradition there has not been a separation of church and state. They work out their solutions to suit themselves. There isn't in England, in some of the Scandinavian countries, but that does not mean that Americans who happen to be members of those same faiths - and in some countries where Catholics are a majority - that there isn't a separation. Lutherans in the United States believe in separation of church and state, so do Catholics, so do Jews. We have been able to work this out in our society. But why should something be raised when I run for the Presidency? That is what I cannot understand. It wasn't raised when I ran for the House or the Senate. I know that the Presidency has a great influence, but why should I be questioned in my running for the Presidency of the United States.

QUESTION. Do you plan to start talking about this in your campaign speeches as you did in West Virginia?

Senator KENNEDY. Not unless I am asked.

QUESTION. Do you believe that Senator Nixon has rejected the support of religious bigots?

Senator KENNEDY. Mr. Nixon has been very clear in that regard. I would not disagree with him.

QUESTION. Due to the fact that your wife is going to have a baby and you are certain that it is going to be a boy, there are a lot of expectant fathers who would like to know your secret of knowing that it is going to be a boy.

Senator KENNEDY. She told me. You would have to ask her. [Laughter.]

QUESTION. Senator, in your sacrificing for the welfare of the United States, how do you feel about the draft? How does this fit in?

Senator KENNEDY. I think it ought to continue at the present time.

QUESTION. More or less?

Senator KENNEDY. Well, I hope that we would be able to strengthen conventional forces. I think it is possible to secure that strengthening through present draft laws or present mixed and volunteers or draftees, but I don't think it will be possible until the whole weapon technology changes and the needs for conventional forces change.

QUESTION. You don't think this weakens the morale of the young men?

Senator KENNEDY. No, I don't at all. The morale would have to be awfully weak, serving in the service, to weaken it still further. I would think that the chance to serve would help morale.

QUESTION. Senator, Governor Brown today issued a very optimistic statement because he was so dated at the rally at Oakland last night. Yet the field poll shows Nixon running ahead 49 to 44, subject to the percent undecided, and this is the first time he has led it for three consecutive showings of the poll. Which of these two experts do you believe?

Senator KENNEDY. I believe Governor Brown. [Laughter.] I think it is difficult to make a prediction. I have seen another poll in California that showed us doing better than the field poll, but this campaign has some time to go and I would say that any poll today is, based on my experience with polls - whether it showed me ahead or behind - I would not be certain of it. I think we have a good chance in California, but I think it is going to be very close. In fact, I think that a good many of these industrial States are going to be close.

QUESTION. Senator, do you plan to discuss Vice President Nixon's record as you go along in this campaign?

Senator KENNEDY. Yes. I think as it illuminates a position which he might take for the future, I think it perhaps would be useful to have his record illuminated, but only as it deals with issues.

QUESTION. Senator, when does the moratorium end on Nixon's hospitalization and your ability to attack him?

Senator KENNEDY. Well, I said I would not mention him unless I could praise him until he got out of the hospital, and I have not mentioned him. [Laughter.] I am not planning any attack on Mr. Nixon at the present time, unless it happens to come up on an issue dealing with medical care or some other where we have a different viewpoint. I think it would be useful to then try to state the difference between our viewpoints.

QUESTION. Is it your intention to avoid personal attack on the Vice President as a Senator throughout the campaign?

Senator KENNEDY. My intention is to do so; yes, sir. I hope to do so.

QUESTION. Senator, in your speech tonight you say that the Republican administration has failed to take one constructive step toward guaranteeing equal opportunities to Americans. How do you regard the civil rights proposals that they advanced in 1957 and again in 1959?

Senator KENNEDY. I think they are inadequate. The administration opposed title III in 1957 and in 1960. The voting provisions are useful, but I don't recall that any bill on civil rights came to the floor of the Congress in 1953 and 1954 when the Republicans had control of the Congress and the administration. The President did not support title III in the Senate when it came to a close vote in 1957 and did not support several of the provisions in 1960 other than the voting provision. On the voting provision there was general unanimity. The struggle was over the other measures.

Secondly, I don't think that the President has used his executive powers fully in the fight for equal rights and I do not think that this administration has been particularly vigorous in setting a moral atmosphere for the implementation of the Supreme Court decisions.

I do not recall an original administration proposal in the field of social welfare in the last 8 years that was not in response to a previous Democratic provision. I would include in that general category the administration provision on aid to the aged. It was not until the Forand bill was put forward and secured wide support that an alternative was proposed. As you will recall, the administration did not give the endorsement to Mr. Javits' bill until a day before it was due to be voted. So I feel that their proposals have been in response, as a compromise, really, to proposals that we have made, and I think that has been true of this century.

QUESTION. Senator Kennedy, in developing your line about your new frontier, you have warned your audiences that it might involve sacrifices but you have not specified what those sacrifices might be. Do you intend and could you suggest that it might fall in the line of taxes, or of what sort of sacrifices?

Senator KENNEDY. My answer I tried to respond to Mr. Ritter with was I stated in the field of national security I thought the United States would have to make a bigger effort. Now depending on the condition of the economy would depend on what method that bigger effort would be financed. I think that the problem in the winter of 1961 is going to be a deflationary problem and not an inflationary problem, and, therefore, I think it would be a mistake at the present time until we know a little better about what is going to happen next winter to make any predictions on what the appropriate tax level will be. All I am suggesting is that in the 1960's which are going to be a difficult time, I would hope that people will understand that I do not run merely stating what we are going to do, but they should also realize that in a difficult time the United States must make a greater effort. I cannot be more specific than that, because I do not know whether it would be wise or not to finance additional expenditures, and those involving national defenses I cannot predict.

QUESTION. You used the word "deflationary." Are you suggesting a recession?

Senator KENNEDY. No; but I do say we are in a plateau, and I am concerned. I hope that we are going to move ahead after the pickup which we should have this fall. But I do say that I am not sufficiently, nor is anybody sufficiently, precise about what the economy is going to do in the winter of 1961 to make a judgment on what the tax situation will be. I will not predict a recession in any sense. But I would say that the matter of economy and employment in 1961 - I think the Department of Labor has put out some figures on unemployment, which is up to about 5.69 percent of our working force. But I would not make a prediction about it.

QUESTION. Why was your visit to San Diego scheduled tomorrow? Why was it canceled? Was it on your advice? Was it on the advice of your doctor?

Senator KENNEDY. No; it was on my advice. I thought I should take at least 1 day a week off in this campaign. I don't want to have any trouble with my knee, or any other part of my anatomy, so, therefore, except for the breakfast tomorrow morning, we are going to take at least the 1 day off, and, therefore, I thought it best to go to Texas Sunday afternoon. We have been going now about 12,000 miles in the last several days, and in addition I came from 5 or 6 days in the Congress direct.

QUESTION. Thank you, Senator.

Senator KENNEDY. Thank you.

John F. Kennedy, Press Conference of Senator John F. Kennedy, Lockheed Air Terminal, Burbank, CA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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