Richard Nixon photo

Press Conference of Vice President Richard M. Nixon at 200th Birthday Celebration of Cumberland County, Portland, ME

August 13, 1960

ANNOUNCER. Vice President Richard M. Nixon is the honored guest today of Cumberland County's 200th birthday celebration. Since his arrival in Portland at 2:45 this afternoon, he has met a busy schedule of appearances and participation in the celebration.

Now a corps of newsmen from all sections of Maine and the Nation have gathered for an informal news conference.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Vice President of the United States.

Vice President NIXON. Ladies and gentlemen, I understand that it may be possible that you will not be able to hear the questions because of the acoustics in the room. If I see that is the case, I will repeat the questions before I give the answer.

Just go right ahead.


The question is that Senator Dodd of Connecticut suggested today in the Senate that both Senator Kennedy and I endorse the idea of resuming underground nuclear tests, weapons tests, immediately. And the question is: What is my comment?

My reply is that I believe it would be a mistake for the United States at this time to break off the negotiations which are taking place on nuclear testing and to resume testing. I do not believe, as I have indicated on several occasions in the past, and as the President has also indicated, that we can continue an indefinite moratorium. I believe that in the current negotiations we must press for a resolution on the part of all parties concerned of the differences, if that is possible. Unless it is found, if that time should come, that further negotiations have no chance or no reasonable chance of producing an agreement, then the United States should and must resume tests.

But at the present time there is still a chance that the negotiations can result in an agreement in which testing will be discontinued by both the Soviet Union and the United States, or at least not resumed by both, assuming both have discontinued them, and that this agreement will have with it inspection procedures.

Now the reason that it is vitally important that we continue to press forward until there is obviously no chance of success is that if we can get an agreement on nuclear testing, suspension of nuclear testing, with inspection, it opens the door and paves the way for disarmament with inspection. And this must be the goal of the President of the United States, whatever party he may be from. And so for these reasons I do not believe that the President should at this time unilaterally break off the negotiations and resume tests.


The question is that the Democratic candidate for the Presidency has assumed some responsibility for leadership as far as his program is concerned in the Congress. What is my role, insofar as the Congress is concerned? And in connection with that role, would I be willing to have press conferences in Washington?

First, with regard to my role, I must maintain the position, and can only appropriately take the position, that during this session of the Congress I am the Vice President of the United States and not the President of the United States. The President has the responsibility and also the prerogative of dealing with the Congress and providing the leadership for the administration program in the Congress. It is my responsibility to do everything that I can to see that that program gets through. And that I am doing.

I have met with the President prior to the time that he sent his message to the Congress. I have met with the President and the congressional leaders this week, at least the senatorial leaders, on that program, and I have been meeting - as a matter of fact, I had a meeting just before I came up to Maine today, with Senator Dirksen and other Senate leaders, on the program within the Congress. But it would not be appropriate for me to take the role that Senator Kennedy does, of being responsible for and in effect calling the signals for the administration's program in the Congress. As the President has well pointed out, he is still President, and he will be until the end of this year.

As far as press conferences in Washington are concerned, I, of course, will have press conferences just as soon as the Congress adjourns. I have not ruled out the possibility of having press conferences in Washington if there are particular subjects that arise that would make it seem that such a press conference would be advisable or appropriate under the circumstances.

I feel that since the nomination I am in a position that is different from the one I maintained before I was nominated, and I could have a press conference in Washington if I desired at this time, even while the Congress is in session. I am not announcing any. I am just saying I don't rule them out. And as you know, I have ruled them out previously.


As far as Maine is concerned, from my conversations with Senator Smith yesterday, and with the Maine political leaders today - I haven't had too much chance to talk, but I have had some - I have been greatly encouraged by not only the prospects for the national ticket, but the prospects for our legislative and State ticket in Maine. I am encouraged for several reasons. One, Senator Smith adds greatly to the strength of any ticket in Maine. And I can only say that I am very happy to be running on the same ticket with her, because she will draw heavily as she always does.

Second, we have in our candidate for Governor one of the, I think, best candidates that we have had in Maine for the gubernatorial spot in some time. I have been very impressed with his ability, with his understanding of the issues, and I think that he will do very well during the course of this election, in the election campaign.

I would say that at this point we expect to carry Maine for the national ticket, and I will go further and say that I obviously expect that Mrs. Smith will carry it. I think the Governor has a good chance to return the statehouse on the electoral basis - he already, of course, is Governor; but on an election basis - to the Republicans; and I believe that as far as the congressional seats are concerned, we now have one, and in both of the other two races there is a chance, and in some instances a very good chance, that we can pick up seats.

As far as the balance of New England is concerned, I have not had enough information to make predictions with regard to it. I can only say this: That, as I indicated in Chicago, and as this trip is a demonstration, I do not write off any of the States in New England, and we intend to campaign in all of them. We realize that the campaign, for example, in Massachusetts is going to be much more difficult than in Maine; but we are going in there, and we certainly have been encouraged by what we have seen on this trip.


The question is: Do I believe that the leadership in the Senate will arrange and divulge the timetable business in the Senate so that Senator Kennedy and I will have an equal opportunity to leave Washington and make trips like this for campaign purposes?

My answer would be that I would hope so. I am not charging that the leadership deliberately has not done this, but I will say that obviously there is some advantage in being in control of the time. For example, I had several engagements on Wednesday of this week, several invitations for meetings which would have taken me out of Washington, one in Virginia and one in Maryland, which I had turned down, on the ground that I expected the Senate to be in session; and when the Senate was not in session, I didn't learn it early enough in order to change my plans. Senator Kennedy, of course, went to New York on that occasion.

This, of course, could very well have been a coincidence, and I would only say that I am sure that both Senator Kennedy and Senator Johnson want to be fair in this matter, and I hope that in the future they will announce, not only for my benefit but for the benefit of all of the Republicans as well as the Democrats, the schedule a week in advance; because certainly if that is done, then we can both have an equal chance to leave Washington when no votes are scheduled. Otherwise, the man who doesn't know what is going to happen might be caught short.


Well, Mr. Dambourg, you have, of course, been observing the political scene for some time, and I would say as far as the planning of this trip is concerned, it happened that the invitation we received was one that we could take at the last moment. And that is the reason why we happened to come to Maine on this particular day.

I will say, however, that I had always planned, before this congressional session became a factor - I had always planned to make a New England swing early in the campaign. I think part of this is perhaps the precedent. I don't mean that I believe in omens in campaigns, but I recall having begun the campaign in 1952 in Maine. And, incidentally, we campaigned for 4 days, as you recall, on that occasion. And that election turned out pretty well. And consequently I had tentatively planned a New England swing early in the campaign.

So I would say that while we didn't deliberately say we were going to go to Hawaii first and then to Maine second, the fact that it worked out that way I think is rather fortunate.


I will be back to New England. I want to make it clear that this is not the New England campaign.


The question is that one of Senator Kennedy's campaign charges is that the position of the United States has declined in the last 8 years vis-a-vis the Soviet Union militarily, diplomatically, prestige-wise, et cetera. The question is: How do I appraise my responsibility for administration policy, which might have been responsible for that decline, if there was one.

Well, obviously, I begin by disputing the assumption. The Soviet Union has been moving aggressively, economically, and militarily and ideologically ever since World War II, and this movement has been stepped up in the last 5 years. There is no question about that. But I also say that the United States has moved effectively militarily, economically, and ideologically in this period as well. And I reiterate again that the United States today is ahead of the Soviet Union in all major areas, militarily, economically, and, as I mentioned in my remarks earlier today, scientifically and educationally; that we cannot be complacent; that we must move ahead to stay ahead.

Now, as far as my responsibility for policy is concerned, I take the responsibility. I do not say that because I have been Vice President and not President, and because there may have been instances where I may have had one position in an administration which might not have been adopted, I do not take the position that therefore I am not part of the administration and therefore responsible for its failures as well as taking some credit for its successes. So I want to say this promptly, and I am glad to have this question early in the campaign, because if this is to be an issue, I am ready to meet it.


The question is: Assuming that the Congress does not have time to act on all the 22 points laid out by the President, which one do I think should have top priority?

My answer is that I discussed this matter with the President just a few days ago. And we believed, and I think very properly so, that it would not be correct for us at this time to set up a priority list for legislation in this Congress. We believe that the Congress should keep at its work and get just as much of this program through as possible. We believe that all of the 22 points are important.

We recognize that the Congress probably can't get through them all; but we do not think this is the time for us to indicate a priority, particularly since the Congress has the responsibility for calling up the legislation.

Now, that situation may change as we get toward the end of the session; and as we see what the prospects are, the President might well decide to indicate those matters that he thinks should be passed. I don't say that he will, but I can only say that we do not believe that should be done at this time.


The question is: What steps have I taken or will I take on the minimum wage legislation which is currently before the Congress?

I support the administration bill. I think, as you are aware, you actually have three bills which are potentially before the Congress. You have the Kennedy bill, which would raise the minimum wage on a graduated basis to a dollar and a quarter in 3 years, and which would expand coverage to 5 million people not presently covered.

You have the House bill, which would raise the minimum wage to $1.15 in 1 year, and which would expand coverage to a much lower number, approximately a million, net increase. It takes coverage away from some. It adds to others.

The administration's position is in between. We would extend coverage to approximately 3 million not presently covered, and the coverage which we would extend is to those particular businesses which operate interstate and which have larger gross incomes and, therefore, businesses that we think could, therefore, pay the minimum wage, not resulting in unemployment, which might result if such businesses covered by the broader coverage of the Kennedy bill were brought under the minimum wage.

I think the administration bill is the proper approach, and within the Senate at the present time, where the legislation currently is lodged, I am pressing for adoption of the administration bill.

Now, in this connection, I might say that it is a question of getting the administration position adopted by amendment, because the committee bill will obviously be the Kennedy bill. The House bill will have strong support from some Republicans and many Democrats as well. And I am urging the middle ground of the administration bill.


The question is: Am I one of the architects of the present farm policy?

The answer is that as a member of this administration, as I have indicated on several occasions, since approximately 1955, within the administration I have been urging a new approach in the farm policy area.

It has seemed to me that in this area the important thing to accomplish is a breakthrough of the stalemate which presently exists between the legislative branch of the Government and the executive branch of the Government. And it seems to me that it isn't enough simply to stay in the rigid position in which both the legislature, may I say, the Congress, and the administration, presently find itself. It isn't enough to stay in that position, and this stalemate must and shall be broken. And so far as farm policy is concerned, I indicate today what I have indicated on several occasions. We need a new approach on the part of the Executive to break the stalemate so that we can get away from a program that everybody agrees is wrong as far as the basic commodities are concerned, wrong because it piles up surpluses and reduces farm income for those particular commodities. I will announce that program at a speech that I will make early in the campaign in the Midwest.


I would say that on this area of policy, the views that I have been urging have not been adopted by the administration. I would say that as far as the differences are concerned, I think that it might be appropriate to point out my philosophy with regard to a Vice President or a Cabinet member.

There are no differences once a policy is adopted. And as far as I am concerned, that will be the case in a new administration, if it should be one in which I have the leadership. You argue these points out within an administration. You urge your point of view. And then when your point of view is not adopted, then that is the administration policy.

Now, however, that I am a candidate in my own right, I will continue to urge my own approach in this area.


The question is that Senator Kennedy said that I have described Secretary Benson as being one of the best Secretaries of Agriculture, and is this true, that I have done so?

And the answer is that I have described in the past, and I do today, Secretary Benson as being one of the most dedicated men in public service, one who has worked for the interests of the farmer as he saw and thought those interests to be.

I feel that his problem has been that he has been unable to convince the Congress of the wisdom of his program and has been unable to make the breakthrough that I have indicated earlier is essential in this area.

This does not, however, reflect on the fact that he is a man of great dedication and one who has worked extremely hard for the farmers. The fact that he has not been successful has been the fault of the Congress, which has never given his program a chance.


The question is: Are there other areas in which my recommendations have not been adopted by the administration, other than the farm area, and what those areas were.

Obviously, over a period of 8 years, there have been several occasions when not only I but other members of the Cabinet have had different views within the administration. I don't think it would be appropriate to attempt to go over each of those areas. I can only say that during the course of the campaign I will be elucidating my own viewpoint on all the major issues, and I think the gentlemen of the press of the country can well learn what other areas in which I have had disagreement.


What plans, if we should win, do we have to maintain the Federal highway program?

My answer is that I think this program has been one of the major achievements of this administration. I think it should be continued with as much Federal support as can be absorbed and as is needed to keep the program up with the country's transportation needs.

I may say, incidentally, that I have a great interest in the whole field of transportation. I think there are some new approaches in this field that can be developed, and I am planning a major speech on transportation during the course of the campaign, not only highways but the whole field of transportation, airways, urban communications, and the like.


The question is: How far do I think America should go to prevent the extension of Russian influence in Cuba?

May I say first that I appreciate the way the question was worded. What we are concerned about, as the President implied in his press conference, is foreign domination, foreign communism, coming into Cuba. If the Cuban people choose any form of government or economic system that they want, they have that right of choice. We can have no quarrel with them. It is the foreign domination that is the key.

And the answer is that, as the President has indicated, the United States cannot and will not tolerate a foreign-dominated government in the Western Hemisphere, and we have to do whatever is necessary.

I don't want to spell out now what additional things we will do, other than economic action that we have taken, because we feel that the Cuban people, as well as people in the balance of Latin America, are increasingly becoming aware of the threat of communism, and are developing policies, perhaps, and programs, to deal with it. But I will say as far as our policy is concerned, whatever is necessary we must be prepared to do.


The question is that in Hawaii I indicated that I might engage in a good deal of foreign policy if I were President, and would I elucidate on it?

Excuse me. Foreign travel, if I were President; and would I elucidate on that.

What I meant to say in Hawaii was that I feel that foreign travel on the part of the President, Vice President, Secretary of State, and other high Government officials, has been effective. I don't believe that the fact that we have had a problem in Caracas and on a much larger scale, of course, the President had a problem in Tokyo, means that we should allow Communist mobs, which have been deliberately set up for the purpose of discouraging these very effective trips, to keep us from contact with our friends.

I can only say that I believe that this travel must, of course, be carefully planned, but that the high officials of this Government must and should seize every opportunity to carry the ideological position of the free world abroad by trips such as the President has taken so successfully.

ANNOUNCER. You have been listening to an informal news conference with Vice President Richard M. Nixon. The Vice President has been visiting Maine during the 200th anniversary celebration of Cumberland County.

Richard Nixon, Press Conference of Vice President Richard M. Nixon at 200th Birthday Celebration of Cumberland County, Portland, ME Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project