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Press Conference of Vice President Richard M. Nixon, Hotel Casey, Scranton, PA

September 20, 1960

QUESTION. Have you any announcement?

The VICE PRESIDENT. No. I have no announcement. We'll go right ahead with your questions. I am just waiting for these cameras to be ready to go.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, in light of the controversy about the U-2 flight and the part it played in the breaking up of the summit, as the Soviets charged, NBC has furnished us with a transcript of last Sunday's "Meet the Press" appearance by Ambassador Lodge, in which this question was asked by Ernest Lindley: "But relative to the Soviet Union, do you think we have as much prestige and as much influence in the world as we had 8 years ago?

Ambassador Lodge replied: "Let me just point to the U-2 case. You might say if ever there was a case we didn't have the law on our side it was the U-2 case and yet when the Soviet Union proceeded against us in the Security Council on the U-2 case, they got the most dreadful defeat. Now, does that show the Soviet Union has got more prestige than we have, when they had a case where, you might say, they had us in the wrong? To me, that answers your question in a convincing way."

Do you agree with Ambassador Lodge?

The VICE PRESIDENT. From a technical standpoint, Ambassador Lodge is correct. In peacetime, the gathering of intelligence information, while there is, of course, no body of international law which makes it illegal, is considered to be beyond the usual activities to be engaged in by countries that are supposed to be on peaceful terms. On the other hand, I think it should be pointed out that the kind of peace that we live in today is such that the United States and our allies have no other choice but to gather intelligence information in whatever way we can, not because we desire to do so, but because the aggressive actions of the Soviet Union and the other Communist countries require us to do so; and I think that was the reason why in the United Nations the other nations, all of whom perhaps would prefer that the world were such that it were not necessary for either the United States or its other allies to engage in intelligence activities of this type, did support us, because they recognized the practical situation and they recognized that if it were not for the aggressive actions of the Soviet Union, their threat to the peace of the world, the fact that they threatened surprise attack with their power, the United States would not have had these flights. So, technically, the Ambassador was correct. From a practical standpoint, the United States had the body of world opinion on its side.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, following Mr. Lawrence's question, if we were in the wrong on this from a nontechnical point of view, then do you think that you could criticize Senator Kennedy for offering the possibility of expressing regrets to Soviet Premier Khrushchev about this? If we are wrong from a moral point of view, I think your answer seems to imply, if not from a technical point of view, does the United States never express regrets on an occasion like this?

The VICE PRESIDENT. As a matter of fact, I was implying exactly the opposite. I don't think the United States was wrong from a moral point of view. I think the United States was wrong only from a standpoint of a purely technical point of view. I think from a moral point of view we had no other choice because of the wrong which the Soviet Union obviously is engaging in the activities not only intelligencewise, but its aggressive moves throughout the world. We had no choice but to gather intelligence information in order to protect our friends and ourselves from possible Soviet and other Communist aggressive actions.

Now, from the standpoint of Senator Kennedy's suggestion, it did not raise the question of morality that I have raised. Senator Kennedy has often said that the only reason he suggested that - and he used both words, as you recall, in his press conference in Portland or in Oregon - he used the word "apologize" and "regret", but he said the reason he did so was that it could have been tried, as I understand it, in order to save the conference. My point is this was a very naive attitude with regard to Mr. Khrushchev. My point is that, knowing him, as I do, and as I think others do, to express regrets to Mr. Khrushchev for something that he knew was necessary, that he knew he was basically at fault for by reason of his own aggressive actions, would not have saved the conference. It would not have accomplished the end which Senator Kennedy suggested because - we go right back to the even more basic problem - this assumes that the reason Mr. Khrushchev broke up the conference is because of the U-2 flight, and there are very, very few observers who now believe that was the case. I certainly don't believe it was the case. I think there was a long trend of Mr. Khrushchev's statements prior to that conference that indicated that he intended to break it up for other reasons and that the U-2 flight was used only as an excuse. For the President to have apologized or to express regrets, as Senator Kennedy suggested, under those circumstances, would have been a mistake of the greatest magnitude, in my opinion, and I still say that, apart from the legalities, the technical legalities, at the present time the United States, under no circumstances, can refuse to continue - to continue, I say - to get intelligence information to protect us against surprise attack. We would be naive, but - more than that - the U.S. Government would not be rendering the service that it should and the protection that it should to the people of the United States if we did not have some intelligence-gathering activities of this type, regardless of the technical, legal problems to which Mr. Lawrence referred.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, under present circumstances, would you have restricted Premier Khrushchev to Manhattan Island and, if so, what would be your reasons for doing so?

The VICE PREsIDENT. I would, and my reasons would be his own security. The worst thing that could happen with Mr. Khrushchev here would be to have an incident occur in which he was injured or in which he was subjected, for example, to what I was subjected when I was in Caracas, Venezuela. We had a very difficult time protecting Mr. Khrushchev on his previous trip. It took a great deal of action on the part of all of us, in the Government and outside the Government, working with the various Hungarian refugee groups and others who were determined to run various demonstrations against him to keep him in check, and that was a time when he came ostensibly on a friendly basis. Now he comes at a time when he has insulted the President. He comes at a time when he is taking a very aggressive and belligerent line toward the United States, and I think to

allow him to travel beyond the confines of Manhattan Island would have put upon our intelligence people, and his own, a burden that they might not have been able to have met.

I know that, of course, the immediate question that comes after that is: "Well, what about the Soviet Union? If we were to go there, they wouldn't restrict us."

And the answer is: Of course not. But a police state is a lot different. It's very easy to give protection in a police state. It's tremendously different to give protection in a country like ours where we want to respect the rights of citizens peacefully to demonstrate.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, you say that, regardless of technicalities, we have an obligation to protect the country by getting information in whatever way we can. Are you saying that we should now be continuing the U-2 flights?

The VICE PRESIDENT. Under no circumstances. The U-2 flights have been compromised as an intelligence source and should no longer be used. I say that the United States must continue to get intelligence information from the Soviet Union, and a President of the United States should - I want to make it very clear if I should become the President I would - continue to get intelligence information to protect the security of the United States.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, last night in your speech here you promised action on the depressed areas legislation. What I am curious about is: There are indications that a Democratic Congress will face the next President, be he Republican or Democrat. What I'm wondering is how you expect to get through your bill if the President couldn't get through his bill this time?

The VICE PRESIDENT. I think the best answer to that is that I expect to have far more success with the next Congress than the two leaders had with this special session of the Congress.

Now, to put that a little more specifically, the very fact that there happened to be a 2-to-1 Democratic majority, approximately, in both the House and the Senate, did not assure that the Democratic leaders could get through their program in the special session. Why couldn't they get it through? Because their program was simply out of step with what the majority of the Members of the Congress thought, not because the President was against it, as they implied, because when the President is against a program he has to have the support of people in order to sustain him. Now, once an election is held, a President who is elected will inevitably have public support, and Members of Congress do not simply vote their party line. They vote what people think. If I should win, I will have a great deal of public support for those particular positions that have been debated in the campaign, and I would think that I would be able to have reasonable success, particularly in the first session of the Congress, to get action on those parts of the program that I have made an issue.

I would say the same, incidentally, for Senator Kennedy - that whoever is elected President has the support of the people, and Congress goes along with what people want, not what party leaders want, as the last session of the Congress so well illustrated.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, in the 1956 campaign at Colorado Springs you envisioned the day - although you didn't say when - that we might have a 4-day workweek. Yesterday at Atlantic City Senator Kennedy said this is no time to cut the workweek. I wonder what your views are on that now, sir.

The VICE PRESIDENT. I agree with him. At a time that we are in economic competition with the Soviet Union, and at a time when many of our unions - incidentally, sometimes without too much resistance from management - are resisting changes in work rules, laborsaving devices, automation, you cannot cut the workweek because a cut in the workweek now would mean a cut in the overall productivity of the country.

What I was referring to, as you may recall, in my speech at Colorado Springs was the future when automation came actually into being on a large scale. That time will come, but the workweek can be cut when that time comes only when unions and management sit down together and determine to allow automation to come in with its full implications. It's quite obvious that when you have highly automated plants it will not take as many people to operate those plants, but we are still looking to the future and certainly this is not the case at this time, and Senator Kennedy is absolutely correct.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, a moment ago you said that you would expect to have better success than the Democratic leaders did in presenting legislation to the Congress because you would have the support of people who would obviously have elected you as President. As an element in the question before the last one, this makes it sound as though you are saying the President's program failed because it did not have the support of the people: That's the reason President

Eisenhower could not get his program on depressed areas or something else through Congress. Would you enlighten us on that point?

The VICE PRESIDENT. Yes. I will be glad to. The special session of the Congress was unique in the sense that it was purely political. There was very little opportunity that there would be anything accomplished in that session. A better test of what a President can do with a Congress that is against him, when the President does stand for programs that the people support, was the President's success with the Democratic Congress over the past 6 years, and the President has had very great success, I would say, with the Congress. The next session of the Congress will not be a special session. It will be a regular session, and the Congress will have no excuse for not considering responsibly the legislative proposals sent down by the administration and I believe that, for that reason, I would have, if elected President, success in getting through those parts of a program that have been debated and for which public support had been evidenced and thereby a public mandate, it seems to me, having been given to the Congress.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, now I would like to go back to your answer on the U-2 incident. You said we had known long before the breakup the Russians had planned to break it up, that it wasn't broken up over the U-2 flight. Why weren't people told that and why did the President waste his time in going there if that were the case?

The VICE PRESIDENT. I think you know very well the reason for that, Mr. Potter, because you're somewhat of an expert in this field. The reason that the people were not told that is that the indications in these fields are from intelligence sources, as well as from Mr. Khrushchev's public actions. As far as his public actions were concerned, there were many evidences in the press indicating doubt that the conference would succeed - Mr. Khrushchev's very belligerent speeches that he made, a series of them, starting about 2 months before the conference, speeches which reacted to Mr. Dillon's speech, and also to some statements by the President, indicating that we were going to take a very strong stand on Berlin.

Now, my own view is that one of the major reasons Mr. Khrushchev couldn't go to the conference was that he was on a limb on Berlin. He thought that he had the Western allies divided. He thought that he would be able to go to the Paris Conference and get a concession on Berlin. Then came a series of events - the President's meeting with De Gaulle, with Adenauer, with Macmillan - a series of events culminating in the Dillon speech, representing a big departure in the administration's view, and statements in the President's press conference, and then Mr. Khrushchev realized he could not expect to get his way on Berlin. I believe that was one of the main reasons for his deciding that some course of action had to be found for him to save face by not going to the conference. As far as the people were concerned, it was necessary for us - I'm speaking not only for the people of the United States but for the people of the world - with the posture that we have always taken, and I hope will always take in the future, to continue to stand until the last moment for going the extra mile to negotiate, to hope that some progress could be made. We have always taken that position. President Eisenhower has eloquently supported it, and I think under these circumstances, if the President, prior to this conference, had made a statement that he felt that there were indications that Mr. Khrushchev would not be susceptible to reasonable discussion at the conference, that therefore, we ought to consider breaking it off, we would have taken upon ourselves the burden, in the eyes of the world, of breaking up the conference, which the world very much wanted held because of their hopes that something could be accomplished.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, as presiding officer of the Senate, you were singularly successful in helping people change the rules of the Senate. As President, would you be sympathetic toward an effort to modify the present powers of the House Rules Committee?

The VICE PRESIDENT. No; I would not. I think the House Rules Committee situation is different from the rules in the Senate. The House Rules Committee for example, in the field of civil rights, in which of course as you know I have a particular interest, and which was the major reason for changing the rules of the Senate, in my opinion has cleared civil rights legislation. In fact, through the years, the House has passed civil rights legislation, starting with the antilynching bills, antipoll tax and other bills which went through the house even when I was there and then were blocked in the Senate by the filibuster. I think there are other reasons, considering the great number of Members of the House, that make it necessary for the Rules Committee to channel the legislation to the House floor, and I favor retention of the present power in the Rules Committee.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, when you say, as you did last Monday and yesterday, that it should be the basis of our foreign policy, as it would be under you, not merely holding the line, but extending, as you say, the areas of freedom and liberty, are you thinking of the liberation of Poland and East Germany and other satellite areas or are you thinking of the liberation in other parts of the world?

The VICE PRESIDENT. I am thinking of peaceful competition, in all of its aspects, on both sides of the Iron Curtain. I am thinking of the United States continuing to stand, diplomatically, at every conference that we attend, propagandawise and in all information activities in which we participate, for the right of people to have freedom of choice, and I'm thinking of giving moral support to the peoples behind the Iron Curtain - not to choose our system, but to choose whatever system that they want. In other words, I believe the United States must stand for peaceful change in that part of the world just as, frankly, the Soviet Union stands for change in the free world; and I have some ideas about the procedures which can he used that I will develop in a speech later in the campaign.

QUESTION. I wanted to follow up that Paris summit conference question by asking: You were not surprised at all, then, by the abrupt manner in which Mr. Khrushchev broke off the summit conference?

The VICE PRESIDENT. No. I was surprised. I will have to be honest to say that I thought Mr. Khrushchev was a better judge of world opinion than he proved to be. My view was that he selected a poor issue by which - and a poor time through which - to break up the conference. I believe Mr. Khrushchev was determined to have nothing happen at the conference, and eventually would have broken it up rather than to have taken a stalemate on Berlin; but for him whom all the world knew was engaging in worldwide espionage activities, and for him who was the aggressor, who made necessary our intelligence activities - for him to use the U-2 incident, about which he had indicated he had known, to break it up was such a patent subterfuge that he reaped what he should have expected from a whirlwind of opposition and disbelief among the neutral countries, after they had a chance to think it over, and among peoples around the world who wanted a discussion which might have relieved tensions and who didn't get it because of what he did.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, are you saying that the summit conference would not have been held at all without the U-2 flight or merely that Mr. Khrushchev would have gone and would have broken it up; it wouldn't have been a success?

The VICE PRESIDENT. I think the more likely thing was the latter - that Mr. Khrushchev had to go because he had built it up. After all, he had been the one who had been insisting on the conference from the beginning, but I think he would have found other devices or excuses which would have been more reasonable.

QUESTION. What was your impression of the reception you received in this strong Democratic territory?

The VICE PRESIDENT. Well, we naturally expected good crowds. What made them particularly impressive were two things: The fact that the weather was bad and the crowds were very good. That must prove that the people in these anthracite regions are pretty hardy people. The second thing that impressed us was what we sensed was very genuine warmth, enthusiasm among the people that were there. Of course, I realize in these campaigns both candidates and the press traveling with them, depending on their point of view, engage in what we call crowdsmanship. I would not, therefore, assume that, because we had good crowds here or anyplace, that means the campaign is over. I will say, however, that our crowds up to this point have exceeded our expectations, and the one last night, in view of the weather could not have been better. It was a very gratifying experience for which we are very thankful.

QUESTION. Yesterday stock values slumped rather sharply. If there is a further deterioration during the campaign period, will it help the Democrats or the Republicans more in their chances?

The VICE PRESIDENT. If there is a further deterioration in the stock prices?

QUESTION. That's right.

The VICE PRESIDENT. I would say that a deterioration in the economy generally which affected employment and particularly which affected public psychology with regard to employment would, of course, affect the campaign, and it would affect the Republican - the administration - candidate tremendously. As far as the movements in the stock market are concerned, until those movements are affected in employment, in the broad base of the economy, which people actually can feel, I don't believe it has a great effect on an election; but I could be wrong.

Richard Nixon, Press Conference of Vice President Richard M. Nixon, Hotel Casey, Scranton, PA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/274044

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