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Press Conference of Senator John F. Kennedy in Taped Interview, "The Candidates and the South," With Alec Gifford for Broadcast Over Station WDSU-TV, New Orleans, LA

September 28, 1960

GIFFORD. Senator, first of all let me say thank you for taking the time from a very busy schedule to do this interview.

KENNEDY. You know that I'm glad to visit Louisiana by this method. I've visited it on many other occasions. I hope we're going to come back during the campaign.

GIFFORD. Well, do you think it's possible there will be a campaign appearance in Louisiana? There's been some talk there might not.

KENNEDY. I would hope there is going to be. I want to come to Louisiana very much.

GIFFORD. I see. What do your campaign people tell you about the Louisiana area? Do they think that it's dubious? Or do they think it's "in the bag?" Or just how do they feel?

KENNEDY. I think that they feel - I feel that every State in the Union this year is a close, hard-fought State. I think that's true of Louisiana, New York, California, Texas. It's going to be a tight election.

GIFFORD. You plan to have a hard-fought campaign, even down there?

KENNEDY. That's right.

GIFFORD. Senator, the Supreme Court recently ruled, you'll remember, that Florida and Texas owned their tidelands strip out to ten-and-a-half miles, and that Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama owned only 3 1/2. Now, a lot of people in Louisiana feel that this is unfair - that they're not getting an even break. Now, would you support legislation, as President, to equalize this situation?

KENNEDY. Well, I think we ought to have equity in the area. I thought that the Congress had disposed of this matter; but, of course, then, the Republican Attorney-General, I think, instituted a suit against Louisiana; and therefore, the matter is still in question. I would consult with the Governor, and the two Senators, and the Members of Congress, and try to do what's the fair thing by Louisiana and the country. I think we would be able to work out a good solution.

GIFFORD. In other words, if legislation that you considered equitable were presented.

KENNEDY. That's right. would undoubtedly sign it.

KENNEDY. That's correct.

GIFFORD. Would you consider yourself actively working for this, or would you simply take the position that, if it's presented, you would sign it?

KENNEDY. Well, I would try to work for what I thought was an equitable solution, and I think that one which would recognize the very vital interest of Louisiana in this matter and also would recognize the public interest.

GIFFORD. Another question about oil, Senator Kennedy. A lot of oil men believe this 27 1/2 percent depletion allowance on oil is justified as a tax benefit because of the vitality of the oil industry to the national defense. Now, you're on record as being opposed to this allowance, are you not?

KENNEDY. Well, no. What my position was when the matter came before the Senate, Senator Williams, who is the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee - in fact, if the Republicans carried the Senate, he would be the Chairman of the Finance Committee (which Senator Byrd now is) - offered an amendment to provide that it should be reduced across the board from 27 1/2 percent to 15. I voted against that. There was a substitute proposal which I supported, which provided that 90 percent of the producers would be protected with that 27 1/2 percent. For the largest producers, there would be a graduation down to 22 percent. I think it's a matter which we are going to have to look at and study. There are about a hundred and two or three depletions for different resources of the United States. We want a tax structure that is fair, that provides for renewed investigations of exploration to find new oil. The oil industry is having a very difficult time now competing against oil abroad. Texas and Louisiana, they're not producing full time. I'll support a tax level for oil and for other natural resources that stimulates investment and is fair, and I think we can work that out with the advice of the Ways and Means Committee. Senator Johnson has strong views on the matter, and I think we'll be able to get a solution which will be helpful.

GIFFORD. Well, definitely, then, the depletion allowance certainly wouldn't be abolished.

KENNEDY. No, no, not a bit. In fact, I think a case can be made for keeping it the way it is. I think it's a matter that we should look into.

GIFFORD. Senator Kennedy, many Southerners feel that the Democratic platform is rather extreme on the issue of civil rights, and in particular the suggestion that plans toward desegregation should be complete or in the works by 1963. Now, in your approach to this school--

KENNEDY. No, they said that each, as you recall, they said that each school district should have a plan. The Republican platform criticized that. They said that we're not talking about plans; we're talking about realities. We're not talking about 1963; we're talking about now. So they felt that that was too - not vigorous enough.

GIFFORD. I see. Well, do you feel that your position in this matter of school integration is moderate, or just how do you feel?

KENNEDY. Well, I think it's responsible. I think that most Americans agree that we ought to try to recognize that the Supreme Court decision is the law of the land. We ought to try to work out a solution which is equitable.

GIFFORD. Senator, the opposition forces to your own have been saying that on the religious issue that they feel that your side has been pushing it more than they have, so to speak.

KENNEDY. Where - what is the evidence for that? I haven't introduced the matter, except I said in my acceptance speech that I felt very strongly that this matter should not be an issue as I supported the Constitution, and unless I have been asked about it, I haven't commented on it for 2 months.

GIFFORD. In other words, you utterly deny this charge?

KENNEDY. I don't think we have to deny it. Do you think that I'm the one who's sending this material through the mail by the millions? Do you?

GIFFORD. No, sir.

KENNEDY. No, well?

GIFFORD. Senator Smathers, who was in Louisiana recently on your behalf, more or less depicted the Kennedy-Johnson ticket as one that would take a moderate, even perhaps a conservative approach, to matters that would interest businessmen and Southerners. Now, do you think that the Democratic ticket could be described, at least in this respect, as more conservative than the Nixon-Lodge ticket.

KENNEDY. Well, I wouldn't attempt to make a comparison. All I say is that if you're going to be a successful President and have a successful administration, you have to try to develop an atmosphere in this country where business will flourish and will provide employment. If you don't have full employment in the United States, you don't have tax revenues, you can't carry on your Government, you can't provide for the defense, you can't have your people working and happy. And, therefore, who's ever President, Republicans or Democrats, we may disagree as to how this atmosphere should be developed, but I can tell you that, in my judgment, whoever is President is going to want good business conditions in the United States. That's just basic. You can't flourish without it. This country, it depends on the private enterprise system. So any businessman, I think, will find that whoever is President, that we want this economy of ours to move ahead. We want business to do well. We want people to be working. That's our basic objective. We're committed to full employment.

GIFFORD. Sir, for the people of Louisiana, we hear much talk about your vote in the "civil rights" business on the jury trial amendment. Would you explain how you voted and why you voted as you did?

KENNEDY. I voted for - to provide jury trial protection for people because I think that's a very basic civil right, and I think it provides protection for Americans against criminal charges which might otherwise have put them in jail without any recourse to a jury of their peers.

GIFFORD. Senator, Governor Jimmie Davis has not yet, at least, given any endorsement to you. What are your relations with him at this time?

KENNEDY. Well, I think that they're reasonable. I haven't talked to Governor Davis for some time, but the decision as to what he will do in this campaign, of course, is his.

GIFFORD. Are you hopeful that he will support you?

KENNEDY. Yes, I am.

GIFFORD. Have you had any contact at all with Governor Barnett of Mississippi, who is in favor of the unpledged elector plan.

KENNEDY. No, I haven't talked with Governor Barnett.

GIFFORD. I wonder how you feel about the unpledged elector plan. If you could just give us your--

KENNEDY. I prefer to have a delegate pledged to the Democratic ticket or the Republican ticket, but, of course, this is a decision which a State must make itself under the Constitution.

GIFFORD. Do you feel that this unpledged elector plan is really going to present any serious obstacles in the South?

KENNEDY. (Inaudible.) But, that's a decision which each State must reach. All I can do is run as a Democrat. We want their help. We want their support in this campaign. We'd like to have them associate with us as they have in the Democratic Party for 160 years. The South really kept the Democratic Party going in good times and bad times and many of the most important Members of the House and Senate in the Democratic Party are from the South - chairmen of committees, leaders of the House and Senate. We want the Democratic Party in the South to continue together. That's why I asked Senator Johnson of Texas to run as Vice President because I believe in a national party, not a sectional party, but a national party, representing the South, North, East and the West. That's where the Democrats are the strongest. So I'd like to have their help in this campaign. That goes for Louisiana, Mississippi, and these other States.

GIFFORD. Yours then, is a plea for unify in this regard.

KENNEDY. My plea is to sustain the Democratic Party as a national party. I think it means the most progress for the South. I don't think the Republicans have ever been particularly interested in the South. They were in the control for many, many years - almost a century up to Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt - and I don't think that their policies were noted for developing the industry in the South, increasing its economy, helping its transportation system, cleaning its rivers. I think we've done those things. I've been down on the Mississippi River and it runs through Mississippi and Louisiana. I know what the Democrats have done to provide navigation. What's true there is true in all parts of the South. I think the Democrats from the South, I hope, will stay together just like - because I think that's our strength as a Nation.

GIFFORD. Senator, this may seem like a rather parochial question, but down in Louisiana and in the home city of New Orleans, there's talk about our own Mayor Morrison, who's been working very hard for your ticket, being offered some sort of post in the Government, perhaps, if your campaign is successful. Would you comment on this?

KENNEDY. Well, I've a high regard for him. I think what he's done in the city of New Orleans has been most impressive. The city problems are extremely difficult. I've never talked with anybody about what we ought to do if we win, because I think we ought to win first. The last candidate to make the mistake of assigning positions was Tom Dewey in 1948, so I think we ought to go ahead and try to do the best we can and let's wait and see after that. But I do have a high regard for Mayor Morrison.

GIFFORD. Senator, down in New Orleans, we're very interested in world trade. Our port is now ranked as the No.2 port of the Nation

KENNEDY. It's been a source of regret to us in Boston that New Orleans has moved ahead, but, however

GIFFORD. Ha, ha, ha, where does Boston stand now?

KENNEDY. We've dropped a little.

GIFFORD. Well, we're interested in world trade as I'm sure you folks in Boston are, too. Would you expect as President to promote freer trade in general?

KENNEDY. Well, I'd certainly try to stimulate world trade. We can produce so much in the United States that the only way we can maintain our economy is to have an effective trade, not only with Europe, but also with Latin America and the Far East. I think the future of New Orleans is very bright. I've been really impressed every time I've visited there by the tremendous rise of industry and I think the next 10 years can really be bright years down there.

GIFFORD. What about a continued movement away from tariff barriers?

KENNEDY. Well, I think we want to make sure that no industry sustains too heavy a burden of imports. I'm concerned about textiles and glass. We want to make sure the trade flows; that no industry is wiped out because of excessive imports at low rates. But we had a very good trade year this year. I think we can do better in the future.

GIFFORD. Well, now we got into something just a minute ago about relations with South America. Could you tell us, in general, how you feel about this? Might you make some changes?

KENNEDY. Well, you know, I think we've ignored Latin America up to the last few months. The last few months, because of the rise of Castro, we have begun to look at Latin America again. I think we should have looked at it before Castro came along. Latin America is basic to the security of the United States, and we gave more aid to Yugoslavia than we've given to all of Latin America since the end of World War II up to the present time, so that I think we ought to look at Latin America. If Latin America is secure, and our friend, then we're secure. And this administration for the first 7 years almost ignored it completely. I think the problem of Castro is only the beginning of our difficulties there if we continue to turn our * * * and look to our problems in other sections of the world and ignore Latin America. I would think that the first job of the next President in foreign policy is reestablish the atmosphere which existed in Franklin Roosevelt's "good neighbor" policy.

GIFFORD. Well, we hope we see you down in Louisiana and you say you think the chances are good for this.

KENNEDY. I'm very hopeful we get to go there. I am very anxious to get down there.

GIFFORD. Well, I'm sure that most people in Louisiana are very anxious to see you, Senator. Thank you again for taking the time to do this interview.

KENNEDY. I appreciate it. Glad to have a chance to visit the State this way.

GIFFORD. We'll see you in New Orleans.

KENNEDY. Thank you.

John F. Kennedy, Press Conference of Senator John F. Kennedy in Taped Interview, "The Candidates and the South," With Alec Gifford for Broadcast Over Station WDSU-TV, New Orleans, LA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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