Richard Nixon photo

Press Conference of Vice President Nixon, Leamington Hotel, Minneapolis, MN

September 17, 1960

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, would you care to forecast, sir, whether the television debates will have more effect on the outcome of the election than the personal campaigns of yourself and Senator Kennedy?

The VICE PRESIDENT. The question is: Would I care to forecast whether the television debates between Senator Kennedy and myself might have more effect on the election outcome than the personal campaigning by the candidates?

It's very difficult to say what really does affect the outcome of an election. I would say that these joint appearances will have a massive impact because of the number of people who will see them. Whether they want to see them or not, the fact they are on three networks means they have to tune in to an independent station in order not to see them. Whether or not they have more effect than a personal campaign, however, will depend on whether one candidate or the other does much better in the debates. What could happen, of course, and what usually happens in these cases, is that the debates only solidify the support that each candidate had before they started, but I would say the debates will have a beneficial effect apart from the fact that they may influence voters one way or the other. I think the beneficial effect is in creating tremendous interest in the election and in bringing out a vote - big vote - and I think in that respect it will be beneficial. I think the vote will be much larger because of the debates.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, as you go around the country you say well-intentioned people were wrong in advocating that President Eisenhower express regrets to Khrushchev at the time of the U-2 incident. You have indicated that one of those persons is Senator Kennedy. Who do you think the others are? Would you identify them, sir?

The VICE PRESIDENT. Yes. I think that the same view was expressed by certain observers in the press, certain observers in radio, whose names I don't think it would be particularly constructive to mention, but this was not a view espoused only by Senator Kennedy. There were others who felt that the President might have been able to have saved the conference by acceding to Mr. Khrushchev's request that he express regrets for the U-2 flights, and I want to make clear that he was not the only one who held that view.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, does the speech tonight mark a turning point? Are you going to comment directly on the statements by Senator Kennedy during the campaign? I mean you are attacking a statement tonight that he made this week. Are you going to continue to do that?

The VICE PRESIDENT. I think it is the responsibility of both Senator Kennedy and myself to take notice of any statements which raise a major issue and in which the statement made is in disagreement with what we believe. The reason that I selected this particular statement of Senator Kennedy was that I thought it was an unfortunate statement and I did not think that it should go without reply. As far as the balance of the campaign is concerned, it will depend solely on whether or not I think a statement deserves a reply. It will not be a case, of course, of commenting on everything he says, just as he, of course, does not comment on everything I say.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, Senator Kennedy says you misquoted - in effect, distorted - some Labor Day remarks of his in which you quoted him as saying, "What the American prolabor movement wants for America is what I want for America and what the American labor movement opposes I oppose." Is that a direct quote from his or a paraphrase?

The VICE PRESIDENT. Did Senator Kennedy raise this point?

QUESTION. Yes.

The VICE PRESIDENT. Senator Kennedy raised the point that he was misquoted with regard to a statement made before the labor rally in Detroit in which I stated in St. Louis - and I was reading from a newspaper column - that "what the American labor movement wants for America, I want for America and what the American labor movement opposes, I oppose."

The column from which I read was Mr. Roscoe Drummond's report in the New York Herald Tribune and the Washington Post. The same quote was used in Life magazine, and apparently this was generally the impression of those who covered Senator Kennedy, that this is what he had said. I can only say that if he believes that there are some respects in which what the American labor movement stands for he does oppose, he should say so, because the very day that he made this statement in Detroit the CIO, under Mr. Reuther's direction, issued a report to the effect that they had examined Senator Kennedy's record; they had compared it with 33 key issues since the time he came to the House of Representatives in which the CIO had taken a position and that he had voted the way the CIO wanted 33 times, 33 times right, and had not voted against them once. So, I would suggest if Senator Kennedy feels that he was misquoted he should indicate, first, where he does disagree with the position of the labor leaders, particularly of the CIO-AFL who have endorsed him. I stand on what I said because I would only rely on the reports of what I considered to be responsible newsmen covering him, and the words I read were an exact quote.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, in your Life magazine article on national purpose, you stated that we have a bigger imagination of youth. How can teen-agers train and apply this vigor and imagination to fulfill our part as adult citizens?

The VICE PRESIDENT. The question is that I indicated in my Life article on national purpose that we, as a Nation have a magazine bigger imagination of youth. How can teen-agers and their activities contribute to this imagination and drive which youth can give to a nation?

I would say that one of the best ways they contribute is through the activities you are presently engaged in, that is, in showing a much greater interest in political affairs, and particularly in world affairs, than previously had been the case. I have often said - and I get questions on this at press conferences - with all the talk about things wrong with American youth these days, what has impressed me is that the young people of high school and college age have a great deal more interest in and understanding of political affairs and world affairs than I had when I was going to school. This is a tribute to their teachers. It's a tribute to them. The other thing I would add is this: I think that young people particularly can contribute to the fight against prejudice in this country. Young people have very few prejudices. They are not born with any and they only acquire them as they get older, and as they come out of schools and go into their communities they can contribute to developing the public attitudes in their communities wherever they go against unwarranted prejudice of any type.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, Senator Kennedy has said he would resign as President rather than let his religious beliefs interfere with his duties. Mr. Vice President, would you, as a Quaker, feel that you should resign in the event of war while you were President?

The VICE PRESIDENT. I have already replied to that question in previous press conferences. So, consequently, I will follow my rule that I have previously announced, that I did not think that religion was an appropriate issue in this campaign for either Senator Kennedy or myself, and that any comments, even in answer to questions, which I understand, and I understand why the question was asked, would only tend to raise an issue which should not be raised. So, since I have answered previously, and the record will show what I have said, I will decline comment on that or any other questions which raise Senator Kennedy's religion or my own.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, would it violate your rule to comment on the report in which Senator Johnson is reported to have said in Washington this morning that he was receiving letters questioning your fitness to serve as President because of your Quaker faith?

The VICE PRESIDENT. If I answered the question, it would simply put it in the headlines, and I think that, on its face, the question is so ridiculous, the charge ridiculous, that I will not comment on it.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, I would like to press you on that same score in a different way, sir. Senator Johnson was quoted as saying yesterday he had gotten a lot of mail complaining about your Quaker religion. The question I would like to ask you is: Have you gotten any mail of that kind?

The VICE PRESIDENT. Well, I think I can answer that question perfectly. I have had letters from Quakers complaining about the fact I am not a pacifist, and I have had letters from non-Quakers complaining about the fact that I am a Quaker. So, I am in both sides of this issue.

QUESTION. What are your views on cooperatives, and do you have any proposals regarding their tax status?

The VICE PRESIDENT. The question: What are my views with regard to cooperatives? Do I have any proposals with regard to their tax status?

My views are - and I assume you were referring to the farmer-producer cooperatives as distinguished from the consumer cooperatives.

QUESTION. Both.

The VICE PRESIDENT. Both.

First, with regard to the farmer-producer cooperatives, my views are that they are essential for purposes of helping the farmers close the gap between the prices they receive for their products on the farm and the prices the housewife has to pay in the store. I believe that as long as those cooperatives engage in activities that are directly related to that purpose and not in activities which are completely extraneous, and thereby competitive with private business, there is no tax problem of consequence, and I would not advocate a modification of the tax treatment that they receive when they stay in the fields for which they are properly formed.

As far as consumer cooperatives are concerned, strict consumer cooperatives, not connected with the activities of producers and farmers, I believe that consumer cooperatives should not have a special tax status which enables them to compete unfairly with private business which also may be in the same field.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, may I go back to your quotation which we were given this afternoon dealing with what Mr. Kennedy may or may not have said: "My opponent has just said that his visit" - and I take it you mean Mr. Khrushchev's visit - "as the Soviet chief of delegation to the United Nations means that the cold war is being fought within 19 miles of the Bergen Mall of New Jersey.'" Do I understand your answer before to have been that it was not within 12 miles of the United States and that Mr. Khrushchev was not coming to the United Nations as part of his continuing campaign against us in the cold war?

The VICE PRESIDENT. Mr. Sylvester, I think you are commenting on one question and I was answering another one. The first question, you recall, was not on that, but on my speech at St. Louis in which we were commenting upon Mr. Kennedy's statement with regard to labor. Now as far as that particular question is concerned, what was your particular concern?

QUESTION. My question is: Is it your point of view that Mr. Khrushchev is not coming to the United Nations as part of his continuing campaign against us in the cold war?

The VICE PRESIDENT. It certainly is not. I simply meant by that the fact that Mr. Khrushchev is coming to the United Nations does not change the situation with regard to the cold war. It is not something new. Mr. Khrushchev has always had the right to come to the United Nations as chief of state, and the fact that he is coming does not mean that we, therefore, have done something wrong in our foreign policy, as the quote seems to imply, and that now the cold war is much closer to us than it otherwise would have been. We could not and we should not have attempted to stop Mr. Khrushchev from coming to the United Nations, and I am sure if Mr. Kennedy had thought it through he would never have made this statement.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, to carry that a step further, could you clarify it in the sense of telling us whether or not you think there should be some ground rule or rule of restriction on the extent of comment on Mr. Khrushchev during this United Nations session?

The VICE PRESIDENT. I can only say, Mr. Theis, I think that's up to each candidate, and I observe Senator Kennedy will recognize, as he has already indicated, I thought, in a very constructive statement, that this is no time for us to allow Mr. Khrushchev to divide us. I agree with Mr. Kennedy in his statement of that, and I would say that, in the light of his statement in that respect, that would indicate that he recognizes, as I do, that it is important while Mr. Khrushchev is here visiting the United Nations that both he and I recognize that neither of us has been elected yet, and President Eisenhower is still President and that any statements with regard to Mr. Khrushchev, any positions with regard to Mr. Khrushchev, must, in the first instance, be made by President Eisenhower. As far as I'm concerned, I intend to make no comment upon Mr. Khrushchev's statements here or upon his activities here unless and until the President has indicated what line he believes would be most constructive from the standpoint of U.S. foreign policy for which he has the responsibility. That's the reason, incidentally, I have made it very clear that I will, under no circumstances, accede to a suggestion I should meet with Mr. Khrushchev along with Senator Kennedy, that we should call on him, while he is here at the United Nations. I think it would be very much out of place for two candidates of the Presidency to go call on Mr. Khrushchev or any other head of state, for that matter, or head of government, when they attend a session of the United Nations. We have to recognize the fact that President Eisenhower has that responsibility and for us to call on him without, in effect, being told by the President, I think, could be very harmful to U.S. foreign policy.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, are you implying you are going to hold a self-imposed moratorium on talk about Mr. Khrushchev while he is here?

The VICE PRESIDENT. I couldn't quite hear you, Mr. Ross.

QUESTION. Sir, are you implying that you are going to impose upon yourself a moratorium on talk about Mr. Khrushchev while he is here?

The VICE PRESIDENT. I indicated very clearly, I thought, it would be inappropriate to comment upon Mr. Khrushchev's statements that he makes while he is here and on his activities while he is here. As far as what Mr. Khrushchev has said previously, as to the positions that he has taken, as to his waging of cold-war activities against the United States, I don't think that the presidential candidate should - and I certainly do not intend to - quit talking about it while he is here. Our campaign must go ahead, and the American people must be informed of where Mr. Kennedy and I stand with regard to dealing with Mr. Khrushchev.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, the other day you made a statement, I believe, along this line: that newspaper reporters had reported that the Kennedy campaign had not gotten off the ground. Do you consider that you are lengthening your lead over Kennedy at the present time?

The VICE PRESIDENT. The question was, as I understand it, that I had indicated that newspaper reports - and not all of them, of course; I said that some reports - indicate that his campaign had not been getting across. Do I, therefore, believe I am lengthening my lead over him?

Let me say that I consider the race to be even at the present time. I think it is so close that, while I think we are doing very well at this stage in the campaign, I would, under no circumstances, say that we are moving ahead or that he is moving ahead. I think at this point in the campaign the lead will fluctuate several times before you get to the last critical 2 weeks. I think there hasn't been much change in the last 2 weeks.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, Senator Kennedy today in North Carolina called your farm plan the Benson-Nixon plan. Did any part of the program come from Benson or did he advise you in any way regarding the farm plan you presented yesterday?

The VICE PRESIDENT. I think I heard it all. As I understand it, Senator Kennedy is supposed to have said today in North Carolina that my farm program announced yesterday was the Benson-Nixon plan and your question was---

QUESTION. Did Benson play any part?

The VICE PRESIDENT. Did Benson play any part in the development of the program?

QUESTION. In developing the program.

The VICE PRESIDENT. The answer is, he did not. This program was developed as a result of consultation with my farm advisers. I had professional advice from the professional staff of the Department of Agriculture. I called upon them, among others, but I did not discuss the program with Secretary Benson. As far as this program is concerned, as those who will read it carefully will note, it has in it, in some respects, some new proposals which Secretary Benson has not himself advocated. I don't know whether he would approve of them or not. They were not cleared with him.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, 2 years ago you came into Minnesota to urge the reelection of Senator Thye to the Senate and at that time you said that Washington is big enough for both Senator Thye and Secretary Benson, even though then Senator Thye had disapproved somewhat of Secretary Benson's program. What has changed your mind about Secretary Benson? Apparently you don't think there is room for him in Washington any more.

The VICE PRESIDENT. What has changed my mind is the fact that Secretary Benson, who I again reiterate is one of the most dedicated public servants it's been my privilege to know, one who has in his own mind, I'm sure, the interests of the Nation and the farmers at heart, has not had the ability and has not had the success in getting a program through, and that means that he has not been able to get the support of farmers and the people, and of course that means the Congress, for a program. Now, as I have often said, what is most wrong is the present program. We must not leave it where it is because, if we do, we are continuing a program that simply piles up costs and surpluses and does not help farm income. In certain cases, it depresses it. So, therefore, I think we need a new approach. I think we need new leadership which will break the bottleneck between the legislative and the executive that has existed, and that's why I have indicated my views about the program and why I have also indicated I think we need a new leadership in the Department.

QUESTION. Do you think there is bound to be a better way to run for the Presidency than you and Mr. Kennedy have devised - or is it necessary to go on these cross-country trips that wear each of you out so much?

The VICE PRESIDENT. That question is so good I want to repeat it. Do I think there is bound to be a better way to run for the Presidency than Senator Kennedy and I have devised or do we have to continue to go on these cross-country junkets and appear on television right snappy, as of a time like this?

The answer is, of course, that neither Senator Kennedy nor I, as original as we are, devised this method of campaigning, and I'm sure he would agree with me that there ought to be a change, but I rather doubt there will be. I say there ought to be, from a personal standpoint, because this kind of campaigning is terribly wearing and tearing on candidates, as well as the press; but our problem, however, is that I don't know of any other way to get the candidates known to the people and their views communicated. So, both he and I are going to have to suffer through it and continue to talk until we get hoarse because the purpose of the campaign, of course, is to let as many people as possible see the candidates, not only on television, as they are seeing this press conference, but also in person. So, while from a personal standpoint I think there ought to be a law against it, I wouldn't vote for such a law if somebody put it up.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, I represent a religious newspaper. So I presume I have a religious question, but you have discussed it before as a candidate for nomination, sir, and I wonder if a little clarification might be in order. In April, speaking in Washington, you said: "If the undeveloped nations seek birth control information from the U.S., we should give it to them." You were also reported to have said this was in line with what President Eisenhower has said; but, according to the press reports of what the President had said earlier, he had declared that distribution of birth control information was not a proper governmental activity. Do you feel clarification is necessary here or is there an inconsistency?

The VICE PRESIDENT. I shall be glad to clarify it because I think the issue is one that was subject to some confusion. My position - and this was, as I recall, at a press conference I had before a group of religious editors, in which my statement was made in answer to a question.

QUESTION. That's correct.

The VICE PRESIDENT. My position was - and is - that, under no circumstances should the United States take the initiative in attempting to attach birth control conditions on any foreign assistance program. Under no conditions, under no circumstances, should the United States attempt to get foreign countries, clearly apart from the foreign aid program, to adopt methods of population control. I stated that as part of my answer there for this reason: Having visited most of these countries, I realize they are, above all, people very proud of their traditions and people who would resent deeply any attempt on the part of another nation to interfere in their internal affairs - and particularly one that involves, in some respects, for these countries, religious consideration - because, as I pointed out also when I answered that question in April, Mahatma Ghandi himself has indicated - and the Indians, the people of India, still with good reason were with him virtually - that birth control, in his opinion was a sin against God.

Now, what I did say, however, was that the problem of population control was one that could not be ignored and that if people in countries, the newly developing countries, where there was an acute problem, on their own determined to institute a program of information or otherwise in this field, the United States should not refuse to furnish information that they requested, but that information would be furnished only if they took the initiative, only if they requested it, and would not be part of or a condition of any foreign aid program. That was the way I answered the question. That is my position.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, if the Soviet Union's military forces or technical teams were to move back into the Congo, would you advocate any counteraction by the western nations, the western forces?

The VICE PRESIDENT. The question is: If the Soviet Union's military forces were to move back to the Congo, would I advocate any counteraction on behalf of the United Nations - is that it? - or the United States?

QUESTION. Or by the western forces.

The VICE PRESIDENT. My answer is that the United States position should be one of supporting the United Nations to the hilt in the Congo. I think it would be most unfortunate if it became necessary for us to do anything unilaterally or for us to have to resort to action with a group outside the United Nations. I am confident if we can, however, back the United Nations, that this means that the Soviet Union will have to back down in the Congo. I think what we have done to date has been appropriate. I think we should continue to support the United Nations in whatever is necessary to see that the people of the Congo have a right to select their own leadership without the Soviet Union interfering.

Richard Nixon, Press Conference of Vice President Nixon, Leamington Hotel, Minneapolis, MN Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/273972

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