Press Conference of Vice President Nixon, International Airport, Seattle, WA
QUESTION. Would you give US some idea of what you accomplished on your trip to Hawaii?
Vice President NIXON. Well, first, I think that we developed a great deal of unity among the Republican Party officials in Hawaii. As in any party, where you have a number of new leaders developing, you have a tendency to have some factions, each leader has his friends. And I was told - both separately and together - by all of those concerned, that the Republicans in Hawaii had never been so united as they were at this time as a result of this trip.
The second thing I think we accomplished was to get the opportunity to present to the people of Hawaii on television and at very large meetings, my views on international affairs. I may say that one of the things that impressed me particularly about the residents of our newest State is that there is probably not another State in the Union in which they have a greater interest in international affairs than in Hawaii. This is understandable; they're an island community in the middle of the Pacific; they're the only piece of American territory that suffered directly from enemy attack in World War II. And I think that my discussion of that issue struck a very responsive chord.
I would say, finally, that from my observation of the reactions of the crowd, the organization that I saw in action, our organization, I believe that we have a good chance to carry Hawaii. I think if we had not come that the chance would not be as good, but I think our chances have been greatly improved.
QUESTION. I'd like to be certain we understand your position with regard to Jack Hall, the ILWU leader in Hawaii. Would you accept his support, Mr. Vice President, if he offered it to you?
Vice President NIXON. I have always made it clear that I would not seek and would not pay any price for the support of a leader of labor or a leader of business, and this goes for Mr. Hall as well as for anybody else. As far as he is concerned, the only report that I have is that when we were there and he was introduced to me, he indicated that the members of his union had not taken a position in favor of the Democratic candidate and, therefore, were neutral at this point. My response to him is the response that I made publicly and that I make here again today: that I seek the support of members of unions, as well as those who are not members of unions. I do not seek, or pay any price, for the support of so-called "bosses" or leaders of unions who claim that they can deliver votes. In my opinion, it is not in the American tradition for a leader of any organization to go to a public official, to make a deal, in effect, to deliver the vote.
As far as Mr. Hall is concerned and the ILWU, I have no information as to what position he will take. He has not indicated what he will do; I would say that whatever he says that I would hope that the union members would vote independently. I think it's vitally important that members of organizations vote their own convictions and not be led and, in effect, ordered to vote in any way by their leaders.
QUESTION. Now, you've made it clear, sir, that in your opinion your campaign starts from behind and that you consider every State of considerable importance. On what basis do you say that Washington and the Northwest are a key battleground?
Vice President NIXON. Well, Washington, as you are well aware, has had a history of very close elections over some time. In 1948, we lost Washington (the Republicans did) by, well, a virtual landslide - we got only 42 percent of the vote; we won Washington by 54 percent of the vote in 1952, and 53 percent (we dropped a bit) in 1956. Washington did extremely well at the congressional level in 1958, but I would say that the indications are at the present time that Washington would be one of the closest States because at the State level you have a Democratic Governor, at the congressional level we have, of course, the Republican Congressmen, and, of course, at the congressional level we also have two Democratic Senators. I think that very
complex indicates why I say that Washington will be close - as well as its history. That's one of the reasons we will be back in here again.
Another reason, of course, is that we naturally have to put more emphasis on States with larger votes from the standpoint of the number of contacts we make. I will not be going back to Hawaii, for example. I would not go to any State that had two or three electoral votes - I mean, three or four electoral votes - more than once. A State like Washington requires more than that - both because it's close and because it has a number of electoral votes.
I think we have a chance to carry Washington, but I would say that I consider it a 50-50 State.
QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, I wonder if you could tell us what you intend to do in the reconvening session of the Congress?
Vice President NIXON. Of course, from a constitutional standpoint all that I can do is to preside over the Senate and break ties in the event there are any, and that means that I will have to be in Washington throughout the session - particularly during those periods when any votes are indicated. Because I have broken, I understand, as many ties - if not more ties - than any Vice President in history because of the close division.
Now, apart from that however, I will have the opportunity in the legislative conferences with the President to comment on and to a certain extent effect the course of the recommendations that the President makes to the Congress. I talked at some length with the President at Newport last week with regard to the message he is going to send to the Congress. While I was in Hawaii, I talked by telephone on two occasions to those who are working on the message and indicated views that I thought might be included in it, and during the session of Congress I will work with the President and with the Republican legislators in attempting to develop a constructive program.
I would say finally that I think this Congress, this congressional session, could turn out to be a "donnybrook" which would be very detrimental to the public interest. I don't think that either party would gain if that happened, and if either party would have to assume any blame for doing that. I can assure you that I'm going to do everything that I can to see that our party, the Republican Party, in the Congress, acts responsibly, that we attempt to get action on those parts of the President's program that will be before the Congress, and that we never engage in activities which would be considered to be delaying or otherwise destructive as far as the public interest is concerned. I trust the other party will do likewise.
QUESTION. As you left for Hawaii, Mr. Khrushchev in a letter to Premier MacMillan has said that it might be useful to have another try at a summit conference. What's your reaction to that?
Vice President NIXON. I haven't had a chance, of course, to talk to our State Department officials about this last letter of Mr. Khrushchev's to Mr. Macmillan.
My reaction to summit conferences I expressed after the failure of the Paris Conference in a speech I made to the SEATO Organization in Washington. My position still remains what I stated at that time and it is this:
I do not believe we should rule out summit conferences simply because Mr. Khrushchev torpedoed the Paris Conference. If the best thinking of those in the free world, the leaders of the free world is that a summit conference is the only - or the best - way to get a discussion of and a possible resolution of differences, then we would and should participate in such a conference. But, as I said at the SEATO meeting, as a result of Mr. Khrushchev's conduct at Paris, I think all of the leaders of the free world very properly should take a cautious view of jumping in to a summit conference again unless and until we have assurances - as a result of the groundwork laid by the negotiations at the secretarial level, Secretary of State - unless we have assurances, that such a conference is going to serve the cause of reducing tensions. I believe that when you have summit conferences that you must have a reasonable guarantee that some good will come from it, because - as we saw at Paris - when you have such a conference, the hopes of the world are built up tremendously, more than they should be, and regardless of what all of us tried to say before the Conference - that it wasn't going to settle all these problems, the hope of the world was built up.
And so, it is terribly irresponsible for leaders of the free world to walk into such a conference, to allow one to go forward, unless as a result of the preparations that have been made, they are reasonably sure that there is a chance for some progress being made.
QUESTION. My question is left over from the Republican Convention. In your joint statement with Governor Rockefeller there was a paragraph about confederation, which gave the impression - it was widely interpreted as meaning - that the United States ought to take the lead in bringing about regional confederation in Europe, Latin America, and that we should be a part of such a confederation. When the platform came out, this came out as endorsing the idea of confederations in those areas but no specific indication that the United States would take any part. Did you agree to that change? Can you tell us what your feeling is?
Vice President NIXON. In the platform, Mr. Roberts, what happened in the platform committee was that there was no provision in the original draft - that is, the foreign policy plank - for confederations at all. After Mr. Rockefeller and I had met in New York and had indicated our approval of the general ideas that you have described, in which the United States should just not participate but take the lead in developing regional confederations in Europe, in Latin America, and other parts of the world, after we issued that statement, the platform committee reconsidered that plank. There was some opposition in the committee: (1) to using the term "confederation" - that opposition eventually receded to an extent; and (2) to going as far in approving U.S. initiative as the Governor's statement and mine indicated.
In the final analysis, both the Governor and I approved the foreign policy plank as it came out because it recognized the principle of confederations, and as I indicated to all concerned on the platform committee and the Governor himself, I, as the candidate, intend to interpret that section of the platform as giving me, as the candidate, the right to urge the United States to take the initiative in this area. Because I strongly believe, as I implied in my speech in Hawaii last night, that not only must we in the sixties explore all possible ways of increasing the effectiveness of the U.N. as an instrument of peace and world cooperation, but that we also must explore new ideas, or regional confederations, and take the initiative in developing them.
So, my answer is that the platform does not state the position in as advanced a form as the candidate will interpret it. But that was understood by the platform committee and approved on that basis.
QUESTION. It seems that every newly elected President invites someone to dinner who, in turn, stays for 4 years and moves into the White House. For instance, you recall Colonel House, Harry Hopkins, Sherman Adams. I'm wondering, if you are elected will you invite someone to dinner - and who will he be? [Laughter.]
Vice President NIXON. Well, you know, I have learned from previous visits to this area that I can always expect an interesting question like that, and I appreciate it. The answer, of course, is that I do not think it appropriate for a candidate for the Presidency to begin to act as if he is President before the people give him the right to do so. And so, consequently, I do not want to indicate who will be members of the Cabinet, or even who will be invited to dinner. The only promises that I can make in that respect is that when that happens that you will all know about it at the time, but this is not the time to discuss it.
QUESTION. You have had your conference with President Eisenhower at Newport, and since then in your speeches you've said things that seem to go a little beyond what he is willing to do. Now, I wonder if you are satisfied that you don't get your lines crossed in this special session of Congress when these matters come up.
Vice President NIXON. You're referring particularly, for example, to matters in the military, are you, foreign aid and the like? Yes.
No, I do not think that this problem is a serious one. The President has made it clear that I should have, as the candidate, the right to build on the record that he has made, and that I have the right to indicate those areas where I think because of new circumstances, new approaches are necessary.
Now, as far as this special session of Congress is concerned, I do not anticipate that there will be an opportunity to go into many new approaches. About all this session can do is to finish the "unfinished" business left over from the previous session. For example, you mentioned foreign aid. On that score I think we will be doing well if we can just get the Democratic majority to restore the cut that the House made in foreign aid. And I will strongly urge that that be done. I do not expect, for example, that any new programs in exchange, any new programs in economic assistance, or the like, will be considered.
Now, one exception I should make. The President is contemplating, of course, sending a message to the Congress and, as you gentlemen know, he has been considering a new program for Latin America. It is possible that such a program may be presented to the Congress and that that might be acted upon. But as far as the kind of programs I have been discussing, I have been thinking of them not in terms of action at this session of the Congress, but in terms of presenting them to the country and getting a national mandate for such action in the next session of the Congress in the new administration.
QUESTION. In connection with expanding or building on the record of the present administration, would you contemplate any Executive or White House action in the civil rights bill?
Vice President NIXON. Our platform indicates some areas in which the Executive can contribute to progress in this field, clearly apart from what we will ask the Congress to do. I would add only this. I believe that the Presidency affords an opportunity to exert a great deal of leadership purely apart from the specific actions - for example, equal job opportunity in Government, equal job opportunity where Government contracts are concerned, and the like - that the Presidency does provide an opportunity for leadership in bringing together the various contending groups, bringing them together and attempting to develop a better climate for settling differences and, in some instances, working out settlements of differences that have
arisen in this problem.
I believe, myself, that the office of the Presidency should be used for the purpose of providing for as much leadership as possible toward that end. I do not believe that it is enough for the President and the administration and its officials (officials in the administration, for example) simply to say: We will get the Congress to pass laws and then let it lie there. I believe that many of these problems simply aren't susceptible to solution in any reasonable time by the long processes of the law, and I think that the process can be speeded up through leadership on the part of the President and members of his official family where these disputes arise.
Let me give you one specific example because I realize this has been general and to an extent rambling. I've been trying to describe in general terms and I'm thinking specifically.
Let's take the matter of sit-ins. Right at the present time the Attorney General has been having conferences with the leaders of some of the major chains that operate throughout the country. I have been aware of these conferences and, in fact, have discussed them with the Attorney General and strongly approved of what he is doing. In these conferences he has urged these people to take the initiative on this matter, initiative which simply means you solve the problem before it goes through the long legal process, which would take 4 or 5 years, of getting a Supreme Court decision as to whether (1) they have a responsibility to serve everybody under the law, and (2) as to whether or not the demonstrators have a legal right to demonstrate. I think this is a good example of where the prestige of the Presidency and members of his official family can be brought to bear to solve these problems, and I would frankly take the initiative and urge members of the Cabinet to take the initiative in cases of this type to develop solutions.
QUESTION. I wonder how important you think these TV debates will be?
Vice President NIXON. How important the TV debates will be will be determined almost exclusively by how interesting they can be made. Many people have the idea that a debate is always interesting, because they figure it's two men arguing about something. But the debate can be very dull, as some of you saw the debate between Mr. Humphrey and Mr. Kennedy in West Virginia. I think debates of that type would set the cause of informing the public in elections back 50 years, if we had them, and I don't intend certainly to participate in ones of that type. But if the debates can be on issues on which the candidates disagree and in which there is great public interest, then they will serve a useful purpose. And if the format is one that will bring the views of the candidates out - either through questioning by newsmen, or by others - rather than a format in which the candidates simply read speeches at each other. I understand negotiations are going on now to see whether or not we can work out a format that is satisfactory, but the format and the subject will determine how interesting the debates will be and what purpose they will serve.
QUESTION. Would you appraise Kefauver's victory?
Vice President NIXON. Would I "praise" it? Appraise it? I was going to say I couldn't praise it because I don't want to get into a Democratic fight; we have enough in our own party.
Well, I think Senator Kefauver has, over a period of year, developed obviously a great deal of strength in his home State. It's awfully difficult to take out an incumbent, particularly one who has a national reputation as he has. He's been a candidate for President twice, and is now engaged in investigations on the drug industry, which has given him a lot of publicity. And also, as he proved in his two campaigns for the Presidency, while he never won the nomination he was one of the most effective campaigners - looking at his primary victories - that the country has produced. Frankly, I wasn't surprised at it at all. I think it was to be expected, the margin may have been larger, but Senator Kefauver is - I don't agree with him on a great many subjects, but he is one of the ablest campaigners and one of the most underrated campaigners on the American scene today.
(Note: an announcement is made to members of the press and then the Vice President speaks again.)
Vice President NIXON. One point I would like to add, Warren, with regard to your question, the Jack Hall question, I think it should be clear. As you gentlemen will know, when I met Mr. Hall he was introduced to me in the presence of newsmen, which was, of course, at my insistence; I declined to meet him or, for that matter, any other individual on a private basis where matters like that were to be discussed, and I should point out that on that occasion I, of course, did not ask for support and no support was pledged. I make it clear that I think it is essential that a President of the United States be under no obligation to any leader of labor or any leader of business, because their insistence upon 100 percent conformity with their views means that, if he has such obligations, it leaves the people out in the cold. This has been my view and continues to be.
Richard Nixon, Press Conference of Vice President Nixon, International Airport, Seattle, WA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/273753