John F. Kennedy photo

Press Conference of Senator John F. Kennedy, Olympic Bowl, Olympic Hotel, Seattle, WA

September 07, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. Ladies and gentlemen, I want to express regrets at being a little late. The breakfast took a little longer than I thought it would. I don't have any prepared statement but I thought there might be some questions. If any member of the local press wants to ask me any question, I will be glad to respond.

QUESTION. Senator, in your speech last night, you mentioned that any President would have to reassess the defense posture of the country and come up with new goals. Could you delineate a little bit more what you mean by that?

Senator KENNEDY. Well, I was talking in part about the question of making an analysis of the relative importance of each of our bases overseas, in view of new weapon technology and then I was talking also about - I was making a general reference, which I will detail more as the campaign goes on - about the division of weapons and the service divisions. Pretty soon, of course, there is going to be so much mixed weapons by the various services that it is going to bring into question the whole organization of the Department of Defense. General Gavin has estimated that within the next few years there will be a much greater and closer tie between the two services because of their dependence on common weapons and with a common mission. I am not sure exactly when that will take place, but that is one of the things that a new administration should consider.

QUESTION. Senator, our national policy, space policy, outlined by President Eisenhower, calls for exploration of space and such programs as Dynasoar and Minuteman exclusively for scientific research. If you are elected President would you shift our policy to include military programs in our space research?

Senator KENNEDY. Well, I would hope that it might be possible for some agreement to be entered into by the Soviet Union and the United States and other countries who are interested in space, and all countries are. It involves, in a sense, overflights of all countries, some agreement on the use of space and a control of weapons in space. Of course, we are going to go into the period of reconnaissance satellites and all the rest. I would hope that we would make a continued and determined effort to establish some agreement on regulating with United Nations inspection the use of outer space for military purposes. Quite obviously, these units have a military value as well as scientific value. If we are unable to reach that agreement with the Soviet Union, and I think that this is one area where we should continue, then, of course, all these units, particularly those that involve reconnaissance, the Dynasoar, will all have a military importance. I do think that because we are not sure of getting the agreement we should make a real national effort to maintain our position in space, because it is going to be the dominant area in the future for military strategy. But I hope before that day comes, when there is free competition in space for military superiority, that we try again, in fact try continually to get an agreement, before either side has a vested interest in it.

QUESTION. Senator Kennedy, you stressed defense a lot in your speeches about defense for peace. I am from a high school paper. I was wondering about stressing education for peace, which I think is just as important as defense.

Senator KENNEDY. I agree. It is extremely difficult in 9 minutes to try and fill in all, to discuss everything. As a matter of fact, in the next 2 or 3 days I am going to be speaking about education, and I completely agree that it involves the strength of the United States, that it affects our economic growth, it affects our ability to make the judgments which citizenship requires today. So I completely agree with you on education. But one phase of national security, of course, is strengthening our national defenses and I addressed myself to that last night. But that does not mean that these other matters are not important.

QUESTION. The Democratic Party platform calls for greater expenditure on defense. Do you personally believe that this is solely a question of money or is it also a question of drive, organization, and some kind of leadership in the executive branch?

Senator KENNEDY. Yes. I suggested, and I think earlier Mr. Morgan's question was to that point, that it really is not a question solely of additional appropriations, though I do think additional appropriations will be needed, particularly in the development of the Minuteman and certain other programs, and an airlift for our conventional forces. I think the Congo experience which in some ways was very impressive, also had some elements in it which should be of concern.

That was our reliance on traditional prop transport rather than jet. I do think there is going to be or should be an effort by the next administration on reorganization of the Pentagon and so on. That is a matter which I discussed with Senator Symington, and in which he has engaged himself, in attempting to suggest organizational changes in the Pentagon and suggesting more efficiency in the Pentagon. But I will try to go into some more detail in the next 6 weeks.

QUESTION. Senator, there has been considerable criticism of both parties being too aligned with Hollywood and Hollywood stars. Many voters feel that popularity as a dramatic star does not qualify them to advise voters. How do you feel about this?

Senator KENNEDY. Well, they have their rights to participate, like everybody else. I did not know there was too much alignment. This is the first I have heard of that. But if anyone in any profession wants to be active in politics, I welcome it. I am not aware that that could be fairly said of either the Republicans or Democrats, your criticism, but anybody in any position, sports, acting, teaching, housewives, whatever, if they want to participate and be active for either party, I think it is a good thing.

QUESTION. Senator, what is your response to the charge by Secretary Flemming that in Detroit you distorted the record of Richard Nixon and the Republican Party on teachers' salaries and medical care for the aged?

Senator KENNEDY. I have not mentioned Richard Nixon since he went to the hospital. I made no reference to his vote on teachers' salaries. He did not vote on medical care for the aged. I don't intend to make any reference to it. The record on that matter is clear. I don't think - I talked about the Republican position on teachers' salary. The Vice President did not vote against teachers' salaries. He was the deciding vote. He may have had reasons for doing it, but I never mentioned that vote.

On medical care for the aged, there was opposition to tying it to social security by the Republicans. Only one Senator voted with us in the U.S. Senate, Senator Case of New Jersey, a Republican, so that record is very clear. Even though at the outset the medical care to the aged was endorsed not only by Democrats but by Governor Rockefeller. It is a fact that the Vice President voted against the establishment in Mr. Flemming's own Department, HEW, in 1951 or 1952. I am not going to get into a discussion of the Vice President until he gets out but I think we ought to straighten the record out, because Mr. Flemming is misinformed. I did not discuss the Vice President's action on the teachers' salaries or anything else. I did not talk about Mr. Nixon's position on medical care for the aged. I talked about the Republican position. But I think the facts, as long as the matter wants to be debated, I think the facts are quite clear on both of those matters and on the establishment of the HEW.

QUESTION. Would you assess the session of Congress just ended? How did it come about that the Democratic majority under your leadership failed to pass most of the legislation that you wanted to see put through?

Senator KENNEDY. Well, we passed in the Senate some of the legislation. Previous to the convention we had passed housing, aid to education. After the convention, we did pass a minimum wage bill of $1.25 in the Senate. We failed by five votes on medical care for the aged tied to social security. The Rules Committee of the House did not release education or housing for a vote in the House. The conference committee did not accept the $1.25. Of course, as you know, the Republicans and the administration were wholly opposed to us. It is extremely difficult to carry out any program in a short session with the parliamentary procedures which are available, when a party, an opposition party is united and has the support of the administration, with the threat of veto. The session was disappointing, but I do think it indicates that it is essential that we secure a party which will have the responsibility, a Congress of one party and an administration of the same party. To divide it between one party having control of the executive, and another party having control of the Congress, it assures you are not going to get action on any of these matters for the next 4 years. I think the American people should give the responsibility to the Republicans or the Democrats, and then let them meet the problems and any responsibility can be fairly assigned.

QUESTION. Senator, do you have any comment on the reports we have been getting that your crowds have not been quite up to Nixon's crowds?

Senator KENNEDY. No, I think we have done very well. We had a very good day in Michigan. I thought we had a good day yesterday.

QUESTION. Senator Kennedy, do you plan to go into the South and if so, when?

Senator KENNEDY. We are going into Texas, which I guess is the Southwest. We are going into North Carolina. We have not much more scheduled yet. I am going to Florida, I believe, at the end of September. That is all we have at the present time.

QUESTION. Senator, do you feel that strong personalities, popular personalities such as President Eisenhower and Governor Rockefeller, campaigning against you will be perhaps a severe handicap to your campaign?

Senator KENNEDY. No.


Senator KENNEDY. I think that President Eisenhower is not running this year, and Governor Rockefeller was not nominated. I agree that President Eisenhower would be a very strong candidate if he was running, but he isn't running, and Governor Rockefeller was not nominated. So I think the fight now is for the future between Mr. Nixon and the Republican Party and the Democratic Party and myself. The relative programs of the two parties and the candidates.

QUESTION. Do you feel that some of this might rub off?

Senator KENNEDY. I don't know. We will know in November how much is rubbing off.

QUESTION. Thank you, Senator.

John F. Kennedy, Press Conference of Senator John F. Kennedy, Olympic Bowl, Olympic Hotel, Seattle, WA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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