Richard Nixon photo

Press Conference of Vice President Nixon, Hyatt House, Los Angeles, CA

August 02, 1960

QUESTION. (Says the Vice President plans to use Governor Rockefeller in several States and that he regards New York State as perhaps the most important of all. Asks for clarification.)

Vice President NIXON. Well, I wouldn't agree that New York State was the most important of all, because I wouldn't downgrade any State. I have said on several occasions that I think this will probably be the closest election in this century in this country. Now, of course, when you look at the election of 1916, that means it will be pretty close. I think it could depend, for example, on what happens in California, or any one of the States of the Union. And New York obviously has the most electoral votes, and for that reason it is a major prize in the election. But California is certainly among those that will be one of the closest States and the hardest fought States.

And in that connection, I would like to say that in my discussions with Ambassador Lodge yesterday, while we are not yet ready to announce his schedule since he, of course, cannot make any political appearances until he finishes his work at the U.N., that one of his first major speeches will be in California.

In addition to that, when I talked with Governor Rockefeller on the phone on Sunday, I indicated that we had a number of invitations for him for California, and he indicated that he would be delighted to appear in California and we expect him to appear in California in the course of the campaign. Mr. Finch is working out the details.

QUESTION. Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Truman made peace with each other today. Do you consider that bad news?

Vice President NIXON. No; I would expect that, and news that you expect is usually not bad; it's the unexpected that usually knocks you off balance.

QUESTION. [Repeated by the Vice President.] As a means of reducing world tension, what do you think of the idea of the leaders of the major religions of the world getting together to see if they could agree on some basic principles? Do you think such a meeting would be doomed to failure?

Vice President NIXON. Well, first, I would say that if such a meeting could be arranged, it could of course contribute tremendously if agreement on such principles were possible. I believe that the stakes are so high, the stakes insofar as having a world at peace, or one in which we have war, that we must explore every possible avenue - government and nongovernment - to create the conditions which could lead to peace and a lessening of world tensions. I have no ideas of course as to whether such a meeting would help, but I do know that one thing that characterizes all the great religions of the world - including, of course, the Christian religion - is an adherence to the principles of peace and nonviolence. And certainly that means you start with one basic principles - if the leaders could get together, they might be able to do a great deal in this cause.

QUESTION. Mr. Kennedy says he will not make any members of his proposed Cabinet known prior to November. Will you?

Vice President NIXON. [A buzzing sound is heard.] Actually, I got up earlier than that this morning, gentlemen, that was my wrist alarm going off. [Laughter.] The answer is, "No." I think that is a good rule that the Senator is following; it's one that I announced some time ago. I think it's a good rule also.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, will you stick to the high road in this campaign ahead?

Vice President NIXON. Well, I think the question in the campaign ahead is whether we talk issues or personalities. I believe the issues are vitally important; I have tried to talk about them. I will continue to talk about them, and I'm going to avoid discussion of personalities. Now, in my opinion, when you're talking issues, that is what I would call the "high road"; when you're talking personalities, in other words, something which is not related really to the decision the voters make, I think that's something other than the high road.

QUESTION. Jack Kennedy says you were one of the architects of the Benson plan and now you are turning your back on it, selling it and regretting it. What about this?

Vice President NIXON. I would say in answer to that question, that as a member of the administration, I of course have had an opportunity to comment upon the various administration proposals as they have come before the Cabinet for consideration. In the area of farm policy, a very difficult area and a very controversial one, I have felt for some time that a stalemate which had been developed between the administration's position and the position in the Congress, had to be broken. My disagreement with Mr. Benson was on his unwillingness to develop new approaches which would break that stalemate. And, for that reason, I felt that it is time for both parties, and the leaders of both parties, not to dig in in the prepared positions of the past - either legislative or administrative neither of which can prevail, neither of which can solve the problem - but to offer new approaches which can get support. And no matter how good a position may be, you are unable to get a Congress to enact it, it means you are stuck with what you've got, and what we've got in farm policy is wrong. It's wrong from the standpoint of the people because it continues to cost more as the surpluses mount up, and it's certainly wrong from the standpoint of the farmer because the farmer continues to get less for his basic products - crops. So we must move from that position and find a new approach, and whatever Senator Kennedy or anyone else wants to characterize that, it's perfectly all right with me. I intend to offer to the people throughout this campaign the programs will solve the problems we presently have, the programs that are not wedded to past positions where those past positions no longer are tenable.

QUESTION. [The Vice President repeats the question.] The reports that our allies are worried about the election gap - is there anything that we can do about that?

Vice President NIXON. I think that the President's action in briefing Senator Kennedy on foreign policy, the intelligence matters particularly, of course, as was the case when the President ran in 1952 and in l956, I think that to an extent that answers that problem.

In addition to that, in the foreign policy area, I think that our allies need not have too great a concern with regard to the positions, at least the stated positions, of the candidates in the parties, because we both stand for strengthening the relations with our major allies in the world; we do not have a basic disagreement on that point. If I were an ally of the United States, I would not be concerned on that point.

QUESTION. When did you first express your disagreement with Secretary Benson, or your call for a new approach on the farm problem - privately or in official circles.

Vice President NIXON. I think the record is pretty clear on that. I have for several years, when it seemed that we were unable to get action in the Congress on the proposals that he had made. And I would say that the stories to the effect that I have been trying to get a breakthrough in this area are correct.

QUESTION. David McDonald came out for Senator Kennedy and the Democratic Party yesterday and that indicated that labor would go along with the Democratic Party. What are your plans - or the Republican Party plans - to woo some of the labor votes away?

Vice President NIXON. Well, I would answer that question in two parts:

First, the fact that Senator Kennedy has the support of a number of major leaders, labor leaders, is not a surprise, because he, in effect, paid the price that he had to get for that support in his platform in Los Angeles. I will not pay that price. I will not pay it because we need a President in this next administration who will not owe his election either to the captains of industry or to the leaders of labor, who, when there develops an impasse between the two - as it did in the steel strike settlement - he can use the great power and prestige of his office in the interest of the public at large without being weighted one way or the other on the side of the labor leaders or the leaders of management.

Now, as far as the labor vote itself is concerned, in 1952 and in 1956 Mr. McDonald - along with most of the other major labor leaders - supported the opposition candidate. We still got a considerable portion of the vote of labor union members, and of course this is typical of American voters and it's particularly typical of California voters, who (1) do not vote the party rigidly and (2) do not like any indication of being told how to vote by a leader of an organization to which they belong.

I believe that we will get a good share of the vote of labor union members who will respect us for our standing for the interests of the country and who will recognize that labor has never "had it so good" as they have had it in the past 8 years, infinitely better than they had it in the 8 years of the Truman administration, and who will want to continue in office principles that will continue to provide increased take-home pay in real dollars rather than increased pay in dollars which were inflated (as was the case in the Truman administration). I think we can make a good case with the labor rank-and-file and we intend to go after it.

QUESTION. [The Vice President repeats the question.] Do you consider that Senator Kennedy is making personal attacks on you? Where do you draw the line between political attacks and personal attacks?

Vice President NIXON. The line is between issues and personalities. When you're discussing issues, for example like the labor issue that I've just discussed, you should have a hard-hitting discussion on both sides. He will express his views with regard to mine, I'm sure - he should; and I will do likewise. I think where you draw the line is where you question the motives of an individual, his honesty, his personal honesty, as did Senator Kennedy in his acceptance speech. As you will note, I did not reply in kind and I shall not reply in kind throughout this campaign. I believe that the public deserves more than simply a contest of that type in which we are really trying to avoid a discussion of the issues by letting it develop into a discussion of personalities. I have always believed in discussing issues in as effective, hard-hitting way as I can. I expect Senator Kennedy to do likewise, I hope he does, and if we can do that, the country will benefit.

QUESTION. Are you in favor of a joint effort with Russia and other nations for an international space program?

Vice President NIXON. The answer is that the United States in the United Nations has been exploring the possibility of the peaceful exploration of outer space, the peaceful development of atomic energy and other areas. I believe that if we could get agreement, that this would be helpful. I believe that certainly we should explore it; I do not see at this time any hope that it will come about.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, do you welcome the debate between you and Senator Kennedy?

Vice President NIXON. I assume you mean a joint debate on television or radio. The answer is that I think the debate - under the proper circumstances - would be helpful in interpreting the issues to the people. I say the "proper circumstances" - I'd like to outline them just briefly:

I think it would not serve a useful purpose if it was the kind of debate that Senator Kennedy and Senator Humphrey had in West Virginia, where I think what you need is a discussion of the issues without texts, without notes, where the candidates in depth go into specific issues so that the people can learn how they think and how they react to the questions that are raised by each other in the course of the debate - We're now trying to see whether we can work out such a format.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, you said earlier that you thought our allies need not worry whichever one of you was elected - I didn't understand what you meant. Do you mean there's essentially no difference so far as our allies are concerned?

Vice President NIXON. When I said there was essentially no difference between my opponent and myself as far as our allies was concerned, the answer is that as I look at the platforms and as I look at Senator Kennedy's voting record and my voting record before I became Vice President, I find a great similarity on, for example, support of NATO, support of the regional alliances that we have in other parts of the world. Now, there will be differences over and beyond that, differences, for example, in how much emphasis each believes should be put on the nonmilitary aspects of the world struggle; whether or not the NATO alliance should be strengthened to undertake economic activities on a broad basis, such as it does not at the present time. I do not think we can get into the specifics on that. What I do mean to say is that you don't have a situation here where one candidate says we want to weaken the alliance, and the other candidate says we want to keep the alliance; both candidates, I think, are for - recognize the fact that the United States must have friends in the world, that we must develop alliances, and that programs should be adopted which will strengthen those alliances. The only question will be one of means and on that, of course, we will differ.

Richard Nixon, Press Conference of Vice President Nixon, Hyatt House, Los Angeles, CA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project