Richard Nixon photo

Press Conference of Vice President Nixon, WFMY-TV, Greensboro, NC

August 17, 1960

Mr. KLEIN. We would like to restrict the press conference today, as we normally do, to the working press, and so I would like to ask that as you ask questions of the Vice President you identify yourself by name and by the name of the publication or station for which you work. By doing this, we can be certain that it is kept to the working press.

For the benefit of those who have not traveled with us, I might just outline briefly what the Vice President's schedule is. The Vice President has had a busy day in Washington in which he started out in the Senate this morning and conferred with a great number of Senators there. He has been working on a paper which will be released on Sunday giving his views on communism prior to takeoff. He also worked considerably on the speech which you know he will make a little later this evening at the Coliseum. Immediately after the talk at the Coliseum he and Mrs. Nixon will fly back to Washington so he can attend a meeting of the National Security Council at 8:30 tomorrow morning. He plans to be in Washington the remainder of the time until next Wednesday, at which time he will go to Detroit to make a talk before the VFW, which is having its national convention in that city.

This evening, he will go immediately from this press conference to the Coliseum where he will meet with some of his friends from Duke University. Flying with him on the plane coming down here were Congressman Jonas, who is the Republican Congressman from North Carolina, and also Mrs. Jonas; also two of his Duke friends who were in law school at the same time when he was. He included Mr. Lyman Brownfield and Charles Ryan, who was a former president of the American Bar Association and has been one of his very active supporters. Both of these gentlemen are now attorneys now practicing law in Washington.

We plan to have sufficient time at the end of the Vice President's talk tonight for filing copy for those who are traveling with us. The main thing that we would like to urge is that immediately after this press conference you board the buses so that we can get you to the Coliseum where there will be sufficient opportunity to write and file. While we are waiting, if you have any questions regarding the schedule, or any of the Vice President's activities, I will be glad to answer them and he will be here shortly to answer your general questions. I might say that this is, as you know, his first campaign trip to the South since his acceptance speech. The acceptance speech he made in Chicago, you may be interested in knowing, has resulted in about

30,000 letters coming into our office, many of them from Democrats who have been very enthusiastic in their support and praised him very highly for his speech. Many of you probably noticed the polls today, which showed the great impact at the Republican Convention.

Here is the Vice President.

Vice President NIXON. Sorry to keep you waiting, ladies and gentlemen, but, as you probably know, we had air traffic problems in Washington, not in Greensboro, and so it was not because we started late, because we had these problems, so you go right ahead with your questions.

(Question garbled.)

Vice President NIXON. Can you all hear the question? The question is: How do I evaluate my prospects in the South as of now? Well, as of the present time, I would say, speaking realistically, it is difficult to evaluate prospects in any part of the country; however, the reports we have received from various Southern States have been surprisingly encouraging. Now, I always recognize that such reports must be read having in mind the fact that your supporters are usually enthusiastic after a convention and they tend to overestimate your chances rather than to underestimate them. But I would say that on the basis of the reports that I have received to date since the convention, the South, on the basis, too of what polls have been taken, that we feel that we have a good chance to carry several Southern States. And I would say further that, as I indicated in my acceptance speech, we do not intend not only not to take for granted any States in the North, or Midwest or Far West, but we don't intend to write off any State. We are going to campaign in all States in the South, as well as in the East, North, and West.

LLOYD GORDON, WBIG News. What is your position on civil rights in the South, and how much do you intend to push the plank of the Republican Party platform in comparison with the Democratic plank?

Vice President NIXON. How much do I intend to put it---

Mr. GORDON. How much do you intend to push that particular civil rights plank? In comparison with the Democratic plank?

Vice President NIXON. The question is: What is my position on civil rights in the South, and to what extent do I intend to push the Republican plank in comparison with the Democratic platform plank? I think everybody is aware of the strong conviction I have on the issue of civil rights. I am proud of the record of this administration on that issue. I believe that the Republican Party platform is superior to the Democratic platform in several respects, but particularly in the sense that it is responsible. It is an honest platform. It does not promise more than can be achieved. Its legislative proposals are ones that we think are reasonable, and that if they were enacted would help the cause of better understanding and progress in this field, rather than to set it back. I believe there are several parts of the Democratic platform that are unrealistic, that promise far more than they could possibly produce, and that actually would set the cause back.

Now, as far as our program is concerned, you indicate in your question what will be the position in the South, and, of course, the answer is that the position in the South is the same as it is in the North and the East and the West. I speak on the subject with considerable knowledge of the problem. Here I am in North Carolina, where I, of course, as you know spent 3 years of my life attending law school. I know that it is a difficult and complex problem. I know that there are many, many men and women of good will in this State and States throughout the South, for that matter in States throughout the country, that are working for the solution to this problem. I do not believe in coming into the South and speaking in a way that will make the issue more difficult to solve for purposes of winning or influencing votes in the West, or the North, or the Midwest, as the case might be. I don't believe in using demagogery in this field. I believe that what we need is an honest program that will produce progress, and then I would add this last point.

I think that it is essential for all of us to recognize that any law that we pass in this field, and legislation of the proper type, is necessary and can be helpful; but that any law that we pass in this field will only be as effective as public support for that law is developed. But I think that one of the primary responsibilities of the President of the United States is to help to develop understanding of, and support for, the legislative proposals. And in conclusion I would say that certainly in North Carolina we have an example of a State in which great progress has been made. In voting rights, we know that there is no problem. In the field of employment, considerable progress; and in the field of education, a start toward the carrying out of the Supreme Court's decision. This answer has been longer than I should have made it, but I knew there was great interest in it.

Mr. DUFFEE of the United Press International. Greensboro is, of course, the home of the sitdown strikes. Would you clarify for us in a few words your own position as far as supporting the principal sitdown strikes;

Vice President NIXON. The question is: That Greensboro is the home - I think perhaps that I would rather say that it is the first city in which a sit-in strike occurred, and would I, therefore, clarify, my own position with regard to so-called sit-in demonstrations? I support the objective which sit-in demonstrations were intended to achieve, and that is that any American who is entitled to go into a store to buy products should have the same right as any other American to use all the facilities of that store without discrimination. This is an objective that I think reasonable people in all parts of the country can and should support. As far as the means for the purpose of achieving that objective is concerned, we there have to look at the legal problems involved; and in this case we will note that in some instances questions have arisen: One, as to whether or not local laws which, in effect, provide that a store should, and as a matter of fact, must discriminate, whether those are constitutional; and on the other hand, we have the legal question of whether or not a demonstration is in violation of law.

As far as these legal problems are concerned, they, of course, must he determined by the courts. I would say in this respect that all Americans support the right to peaceful demonstrations and certainly as far as the legality is concerned we will abide by whatever decisions the courts eventually hand down. But in the final analysis, I wish to emphasize that the way to meet this problem and to solve it, I think has been well indicated by the recent action of the Attorney General sitting down on a voluntary basis with no coercion with major operators of chainstores and having them reach the decision, which they did voluntarily, to deal with this problem before it became necessary for other means to be used so that pressure was put upon them to get action. As I look at this whole problem of discrimination in areas like this in the South and other parts of the country - and may I say parenthetically as I have said in all parts of the country, this issue is not just a southern problem, it is a national problem, it exists in the West, in the Midwest and the North as well in varying degrees - but as I look at this whole question, we have to realize that waiting for the wall is not an adequate answer. What we must do is to develop the leadership in all levels of government, and in the information, opinion making media of our society, which will result in voluntary progress toward this end. We accomplish far more, far quicker, if we move in this direction as the Attorney General did move with the cooperation of the [inaudible] themselves. Yes.

(Question garbled.)

Vice President NIXON. The question is: Do I have any comment to make on the trial of Mr. Powers which opened today in Moscow? I have not had an opportunity to read the transcript of the trial to date or even the newspaper reports. But I will say that I will be glad to comment on those comments that were made by the Soviet press and radio prior to the trial. They indicated that not Mr. Powers was on trial, but that the United States was on trial. And my response to this would be there could be no more damning indictment of Soviet justice than this. Because we all know that justice and guilt are individual, and that as far as Mr. Powers is concerned, he is entitled to be tried on the basis of his individual actions, and that his case should not be tried on the basis of international issues, as the Soviet Government apparently intends to present it. I would say further that, as far as this trial is concerned, when people raise the question to the effect that American prestige suffers because the Soviet Union is trying Powers, my answer is that I don't think that our prestige does suffer from this. I think the people of the world are sophisticated enough that they realize that this trial points up the reason why activities have been ordered by the President of the United States. And the reason was the aggressive actions, the potentially aggressive actions of the leaders of the Soviet Union. I think the longer the trial goes on the more it will bring home to the peoples of the world that we were only trying here to protect our own security and to gain information which would avoid surprise attack. Mr. Levine and (name not identifiable).

(Question garbled.)

Vice President NIXON. The question is: That at the present time there are two bills stuck in the House Rules Committee, one, the school bill and one, the housing bill: Will I use my influence to get those bills out of the House Rules Committee? My answer is that first my influence should not be necessary because the Rules Committee is controlled by the Democrats, the opposition party, 8 to 4, and any bill that Democratic leadership really wants, Mr. Rayburn can get out of that committee, I am confident. The second point that I would say as far as the Republican members of that committee are concerned, that I certainly would use my influence to get out a bill from the Rules Committee if the bill could be gotten out in a form which could be sent to the President so that he could sign it. I do not believe that Republican members of the Rules Committee should be asked to send the bill to the floor, which they knew in advance the opposition were trying to send to the President for the purpose of having the veto. And that, incidentally, is the fact with regard to the school bill at the moment. The Democratic leadership, as far as the school bill is concerned, wants to send a bill down to the President that he could veto; the Republicans are insistent on a bill that meets the President's specifications, and I think the people want a bill and not an issue on schools and housing, for that matter, as well. Now, Mr. Kaplow.

Mr. KAPLOW. Mr. Vice President, what do you think we ought to do about Cuba?

Vice President NIXON. The question is: What do I think we ought to do about Cuba? And my answer is that I think we are doing the right things at this point. We have a very difficult problem here. I know that there are many who suggest that the United States should take, should use a much stronger stand economically, politically, even to the extent as some have suggested of sending in military forces and the like. And the difficulty with those procedures are that they would be counter-productive in the long run at this time. As the President has indicated, the United States cannot and we will not tolerate the setting up in Cuba of a foreign-controlled Communist government. But I believe that at the present time, the economic actions that we have taken, the fact that we are working successfully in developing support among the other American Republics for a position which is critical of the Castro regime, I think these two steps are in the right direction, and until we see what the net result will be of these actions, I don't believe that the United States should go further, and possibly by going further set in motion a reaction against this in all the Latin American countries, as well as among the Cuban people themselves, whom we are trying to win.

QUESTION. There has been a considerable amount of publicity given to the statements that Mr. Khrushchev directed about you as a prospective President. There has also been some publicity which has been resulting in argument as to how he feels about your opponent. I wonder if you would care to comment on Mr. Khrushchev's statements about you.

Vice President NIXON. I think all of you could hear that question, could you not? The question often arises as to what influence Mr. Khrushchev may have in the American election, and my answer is that he should have none; and I believe that, as far as the great majority of the American people, will have none. I am sure that Senator Kennedy would not welcome any complimentary comments if they were made about him, and I am sure that as far as I am concerned the fact that he said something derogatory or complimentary would not affect me to any extent. In this field, what we have to realize, of course, is that Mr. Khrushchev is pretty far from the American scene he is a man who sometimes speaks quite impulsively, and I would suggest that all Americans should take everything he says about the American election with a grain of salt, and perhaps two or three grains of salt.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President (name unidentifiable) of the New York Times. North Carolina, along with other Southern States, have right to work laws. Would you please tell us what your position is on these laws?

Vice President NIXON. I will be glad to. North Carolina and other States have right-to-work laws, and my position is that: one, any State should have a right to adopt a right-to-work law if it wishes. That is one of the reasons why I support section 14B of the Taft-Hartley Act, which grants that right, why I oppose repeal of that section. Repeal of that section, of course, is advocated, by the Democratic platform adopted in Los Angeles. As far as the right-to-work law, itself, is concerned, I oppose any such law nationally. I believe this is a matter which should be handled by the States and not by the Federal Government, and as far as those laws in the States are concerned, well, I believe each State should determine whether under its circumstances it feels those laws would be helpful or harmful in developing labor relations which best serve the interests of union members, as well as the general public. My own analysis of the situation has shown that those laws in many States have not been too effective in accomplishing the objective toward which they are aiming. But I say that each State should have the right to determine what they want to do in these laws without interference from the Federal Government.

QUESTION. (Name and publication unidentifiable.) Sir, will you, in your southern campaign travels, insist on nonsegregated audiences, or will you observe local customs?

Vice President NIXON. The question is: Will I insist on nonsegregated audiences in the southern campaign tours, or will we observe local custom. We will try to have nonsegregated audiences wherever we possibly can, and we will, of course, have one tonight. I think we are going to be able to attain that objective in the States (garbled).

QUESTION. You mention that you may, you hope to carry several Southern States. Would you care to evaluate your chances in North and South Carolina?

Vice President NIXON. The question is: That we hope to carry several Southern States; what are our chances at this time in North and South Carolina? I've had very little information from South Carolina, so I would make no evaluation of that. As far as North Carolina is concerned, we have been greatly encouraged by what we have heard from our leaders down here, both Republican leaders and leaders of the volunteer organization, which, of course, crossed party lines; and we are also encouraged by the fact that in 1956 our ticket did so well here. I would say that North Carolina is one of those Southern States where we think we have a chance to win. It is not one of those States where we not only are not writing it off, but are not just here for the ride. We came first for two reasons: (1) Because there were some sentimental reasons, as you are well aware; (2) because we believe this is one of the States which will be a battleground. And I can only say we're going to put a real fight on in North Carolina.

QUESTION. Similarities between the two party platforms have often been pointed out. Do you feel that this will help or hinder a genuine two-party system development in the South?

Vice President NIXON. Similarities between the two party platforms have been pointed out; will this help or hinder a genuine two-party system in the South? I am going to cover parts of that in my talk tonight. It will be necessary to generalize and I will spell that out in further talks in the course of the campaign. But I will say this that while there are similarities in our platforms, in the field economic policy the two platforms could not be more different than they are, because basically the Democratic platform, completely departing from the principles of Jefferson, Jackson, and Wilson, starts in solution of all problems with a massive Federal Government program. The Republican platform starts at the other end of the spectrum with respect for and encouragement of local and State responsibilities, with the Federal Government stepping in only when necessary and not at the beginning. And it seems to me that that major difference in solving our problems with regard to schools, our problems with regard to economic progress in all areas, that that major difference is one that should have very great appeal in the South, as well as in other parts of the country.

QUESTION. For some time now leaders of the textile industry in North Carolina have been critical of the present administration for what they call the failure to restrict the import of low-price textiles from places such as Japan and Hong Kong. They say that if the present trend of increasing imports continues, they may be forced to relocate their plants overseas, and this move would leave thousands of North Carolina plants unemployed. Would you care to comment on that?

Vice President NIXON. I think all of you could hear that question. I won't repeat it. I can say that I heard a great deal on that question from Spencer Love and others who are, of course, very interested in this textile problem here. My answer is that I am currently making a study of this whole problem, having in mind the arguments that are made by those who are involved in the industry, and also having in mind the foreign policy considerations. I would say only by way of introduction that I will cover this subject at a later time in more detail and more specifically. I can say by way of introduction of the subject that in mentioning Japan and Hong Kong that I feel that one of the most effective things that can be done, and is being done to an extent now, must be done even more in the future, is to get countries like that, that are sending in textiles to the United States, to get them on a voluntary basis to limit what they send in as they, for example, are doing in the case of tuna, to use one case, to limit their imports because if they do not, the pressures in this country for action even on the quota basis or tariff basis will become almost impossible to resist. This is a complicated problem I will cover at a later point and in more detail.

QUESTION. Bermyer (magazine garbled). What use are you planning to make of the academic advisory group with which you met the other day? What purpose do such groups serve in a campaign?

Vice President NIXON. The academic advisory group that I met the other day serves a number of purposes. One, I might say that I have met with this group before. I had an all-day session with them just before the convention in Chicago. They serve the purpose of discussing general issues. In addition to that, each member of the group sends ideas in to me, ideas which emanate from outside the Government, which gives me new approaches to problems. Each one of them is a critique, a very constructive critique, a critique of anything that I do, and I encourage that.

And in addition to that, I give various members of the group assignments to make studies in areas of concern. As a matter of fact, the textile problem to which you have referred, the earlier question to which you referred, I have assigned to Dr. Arthur Burns to make a study for me, and he is doing so at this time.

(Question garbled.)

Vice President NIXON. The question is: Do I plan to make any substantial changes in America's foreign policy, if and when elected this November?

I think that the general course of American foreign policy is sound. I think that we are on the right road. I have some new ideas with regard to organization, for example, of the nonmilitary aspects of the world struggle. I touched upon this briefly in my acceptance speech. I intend to elaborate on it in detail during the course of the campaign.

I would add only, further, that Ambassador Lodge is working very closely with me on this and during the course of the campaign he will make at least two mayor policy talks in the foreign policy area, suggesting new programs building upon the programs we already have.

(Question garbled.)

Vice President NIXON. The question is: We hear a lot of the religious issue here in the South; how do I intend to deal with it in the campaign?

I have said on several occasions that I do not believe that religion is a proper issue in any campaign; that the way to keep it from being an issue which influences the voters is not to talk about it. The more we talk about it, the more people are going to be thinking about it. And so the way I am going to deal with the religious issue is to talk always about other issues and not about that one.

Richard Nixon, Press Conference of Vice President Nixon, WFMY-TV, Greensboro, NC Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project