Richard Nixon photo

Press Conference of Vice President Richard M. Nixon, Hotel Sheraton-Cadillac, Detroit, MI

August 24, 1960

QUESTION. At a news conference this morning the President was asked about the role you had played over the past 7½ years in making policy. He said you had participated in top level discussions but you haven't made policy decisions. Do you have any comment on this?

Vice President NIXON. Yes. The President, I think, has very properly stated the role not only of the Vice President, but of the other members of his official family and his Cabinet. The President always must consult, and does consult, with his top advisers in all fields. But when it comes to the power of decision only the President can and should make decisions. That certainly is my idea of the function of the President and, while he can delegate to various members of his official family the power of carrying out and implementing decisions, the major decisions themselves must be made by the President.

QUESTION. (Newsman says something which is unintelligible and then says, "CBS News" - at which everybody roars with laughter.)

Vice President NIXON. I might say, incidentally, that I had somewhat the same embarrassment at the convention after I finished my acceptance speech. Somebody came down and put a couple of head phones on me and said, "Will you please talk to Cronkite?" And I proceeded to do so and I found that I was talking to the NBC microphone - instead of to CBS. [Laughter.]

QUESTION. I might add, Mr. Vice President, that it went on both networks.

Vice President NIXON. Both networks. Well, that's fair enough. Go right ahead.

QUESTION. May I make reference to one point you made in your speech. You said that at any time the United States so desired it could be instrumental in toppling the Castro government. Can you expand on that?

Vice President NIXON. Yes. What I meant to say is this. Suggestions have been made from very well intentioned quarters to the effect that the United States should use what they call the big stick on Cuba - going back to the days of Theodore Roosevelt. Now, if the United States wanted to use its full military and economic power, it could topple Mr. Castro. My point was that is simply out of the question. It's out of the question not only for the reason that I mentioned in my speech - that getting rid of Castro isn't going to solve the problem of Communist appeal in Latin America as well as in Cuba - but also it is out of the question because the use of military power for the purpose of effecting a change in government, unless there is a joint support, joint support from the hall of the international community, either the United Nations or, in the other case, the OAS, is out of the question.

QUESTION. How do you feel about the reaction to the Senator (?) - last night - of the medical care, medical care bill? Are you satisfied with that bill? [NOTE.- Questions from the floor at this press conference are not too clear.]

Vice President NIXON. I certainly am not. I think that bill, as I have indicated previously, is an improvement over the bill passed by the House, and it will provide to the States an opportunity to take care of the medically indigent, so-called. But it does not provide adequately for what I would term the middle class (I don't like to use the word "class"), but I mean the middle group among our older citizens, who sometimes are those most in need and those who have least opportunity to take care of their medical needs. For that group I feel that the proposal that the administration backed, a proposal which was incorporated in its major features in the Javits amendment which I supported, is the best approach.

Now, people disagree with that. Senator Kennedy and Senator Johnson believe that the social security route, which would compel all people - whether they wanted health insurance or not - to, in effect, have it through subscribing to social security, is the best one to provide medical care or people over 65.

I believe that the most effective method is through a program which will provide a choice whereby people who want to have the protection for catastrophic illnesses or, for that matter, for noncatastrophic illnesses, if they so desire, can have it, but where they are not forced to have it if they do not desire, and where they can choose getting that protection through government or through private plans, which they might choose, with some government assistance. And I would agree with Senator Kennedy, incidentally, to this extent: he indicated that this would be an issue in the campaign, I think it will be an issue in the campaign, and the question will not be one of ends, because both of us believe that there should he protection for our older citizens for medical care. The question will be one of means. He is for a compulsory program; I am for a voluntary program.

QUESTION. Are you satisfied with the record of the bobtail session of Congress - if not, can you use your influence with Republicans to speed it up?

Vice President NIXON. All the influence I could use with Republicans would mean very little for the very reason that the Democrats have twice as many members as do Republicans. And I would say that the record to date is one that, of course, I'm sure is not satisfactory either to the Democratic leadership or to the President and the Republican leadership. I would suggest that perhaps the reason for that failure is twofold: first, having a session between the convention and the election, as I predicted at the time this session was called, is a hazardous business. There has never been a time in history when such a session produced much, and I go back to 1948 when a similar thing happened with a Republican control of Congress. I am inclined to think that in addition to that reason there is a second reason, and that is that despite the fact that the Democrats do control approximately twothirds of the Senate and almost two-thirds of the House, that they do not have within the Democratic Party itself support of the more extreme proposals of the Democratic platform. And the vote on health insurance was an indication that the Democratic candidates - even when Senator Kennedy and Senator Johnson happened to agree and join on something - cannot deliver the votes for the more extreme proposals adopted in that platform.

QUESTION. You talked this morning about considering the threat (?) - you said we are in a race with our opponents and in order to maintain our position we must move ahead. How do we stand in that race at the moment?

Vice President NIXON. Well, there are various aspects of the race. There is, of course, the military aspect which has been discussed a great deal. On that score we're ahead now, overall, and I believe we have the capability and the intention and the will to stay there. On the economic side, which has been the subject of a great deal of discussion, the problem is not who is ahead - everybody agrees the United States is ahead - our gross national product is approximately two and a quarter times as great as that of the Soviet Union. The question is, which has been raised, is that the Soviet economy is growing at a faster rate than ours, the claim is made at least, and that they will overtake us. I do not believe that they will overtake us for a variety of reasons which I will not go into now, but which, incidentally, I covered at some length when I spoke to the Economic Club earlier.

In my opinion, in the economic area, the absolute gap between our economies which presently exists, can and will be maintained by the United States in the next 10 years, the next 20 years, of the foreseeable future. To maintain it, however, we have to get the most out of our economy, and the way we get the most out of our economy is not through relying upon government action, greater government spending, for example, to do that, but through increasing opportunities and incentives for expansion of the private sector of the economy. There are some areas where government can be effective, but those areas where it can be most effective in assuring economic growth are in the area of tax reform, credit policies, and others which will be of assistance in encouraging and stimulating the private sector.

So, with the right kind of government policies, which will encourage the private sector of the economy, and with both business and labor recognizing that we're in a race, working for increased productivity and both, incidentally, must do so - this isn't just a problem of labor's being guilty of - as some would say, of featherbedding - business also has its inefficiencies - but business and labor acting on an efficient basis, the U.S. economy will maintain the absolute gap that we presently have over the Soviet Union.

QUESTION. Do you stand behind and support the intercession of your aid, Mr. Shepley, in the financing of the African exchange program?

Vice President NIXON. I can only say that I would hope that the Kennedy Foundation and the State Department, and I would hope other foundations as well, would support not only this program but other programs as well. As most of you gentlemen who cover the Washington scene realize, I have been speaking publicly and privately for increased exchange, not only for Africa, but for all of the so-called underdeveloped and newly developing countries. As I implied in my speech today, simply pouring money into these countries without having the political and economic institutions and the trained personnel who can use that money effectively, is putting it right down a rathole. And the State Department files, I can assure you, are full of letters and requests from me over the last 7 years - ever since my first trip to Asia - and so far as Africa is concerned, over the past 3 years, since my trip to Africa - backing requests of various Organizations to increase the number of students and others coming to the United States from the African area. To me, as I look at Africa today, and particularly the situation in the Congo, the most critical long-range problem is not one of adequate funds for development. We need that. It isn't one of military strength, but it is one of the training of personnel at all levels, in Government, in business, and in the civil service generally, so that these economies can be developed in the course of freedom rather than having to turn to a dictatorial method.

QUESTION. Will you please state your position on the loyalty oaths and Federal grants-in-aid (?); and, secondly . . .(Note: second part of question not clear.)

Vice President NIXON. As far as the loyalty oath is concerned, I have supported the position that has now been adopted by the Congress. I believe that, as I put it, we should have an affirmative loyalty oath, an affirmation, with regard to the student's belief and support in the institutions of the United States, but I do not believe that the student should be required to take a negative oath in which he says, "I do not believe in this or that or the other thing." And that, incidentally, has been the position that has now been adopted, and I think that most institutions will agree is a reasonable one.

May I say in that connection, some say, "Why any oath at all?" And the answer is, of course, that this is a Defense Education Act, and where it is a Defense Education Act the least that you can require is that those who are receiving subsidies from the Government - presumably for the purpose of going and doing work related to defense, whether science or some other areas - the least that you can require is the affirmative oath of loyalty.

Regarding the second matter that you raised, would you repeat the question? I don't think I'm quite familiar with the subject.

QUESTION. (Still not clear.)

Vice President NIXON. Oh, I see. I knew it wasn't compulsory now. It isn't compulsory now as I understand.

QUESTION. (Not clear.)

Vice President NIXON. I understand; I understand. I am not familiar enough with the rules to comment perhaps intelligently on that. Generally speaking, I believe - I would say that where the national security requires it, I have no doubt at all about supporting compulsory ROTC or just as we have a compulsory draft. The question here would be whether the national security required that. I just want to make it clear that the national security is what should govern us in this instance.

QUESTION. (Asks about Senator Hugh Scott's criticism of the Kennedy Foundation's agreement to supply transportation funds in connection with African exchange students.)

Vice President NIXON. I will not comment on Senator Scott's charges since I have not had the opportunity to read them in detail. I will only make the general statement that I welcome foundations - whether it's the Kennedy Foundation or the Rockefeller Foundation, I might say, or any other foundation - getting into this field of exchange. And if it is a new field for the Kennedy Foundation, I hope they stay in it. That's all I can say, because there is no area where the national interest can be served better than in this field. And may I say that on the Government side, while we of course like to see foundations take as much of this burden as possible, there's enough room for everybody. We need the Government assistance as well. The number of students that come to the United States from Africa, for example, is pitifully small today, pitifully small, compared to the numbers that go to the Soviet Union. And we must do a better job than we're doing, and I will go further and say - and, incidentally, I have discussed this with the President and he shares these views - to say that one of the areas where I think we need a sharp step up and a very sharp stepup in our Government activity is in the field of exchange. Not only a stepup in the number of students and leaders that we bring to the United States and the number of technical assistants that we send abroad, also we need better coordination of this complex of agencies that deal with this subject. I'll have something to say of that nature on a major score in the course of the campaign.

QUESTION. (Not clear).

Vice President NIXON. The Suez problem, as I have written to several who have questioned me about it (and I think my letters have been published) is one that is high on the priority list of the unsolved problems, and the fact that it is unsolved means that we recognize its existence and we believe that we have got to develop effective means to solve it.

There's no question here, may I say, and I'm happy to say this (it's not a political problem it shouldn't be), there's no question but that the leaders and members of both parties, the administration and the administration's critics, support the flow of free transit of the Suez Canal and of other international waterworks. The problem is how do you bring it about? We don't want to engage in acts that might have exactly the opposite effect that we would desire. So we are working through the State Department, we're working through the United Nations, and we will continue to work through every diplomatic means available at our disposal to effect a solution of this problem.

I would like to say that I have some panacea to solve it; I do not have. I will discuss it during the course of the campaign in greater detail.

QUESTION. When are you coming back to Michigan on a political tour (?) ?

Vice President NIXON. I can probably answer that question best by saying that I will be back to Michigan more than once. Michigan, I consider to be one of the major battleground States - not only because it has a high electoral vote, but because traditionally it has been a swing State as far as voting for Republican and Democratic candidates. And also another reason that I want to come back is that I am interested not only in electing the national ticket, but I of course am interested in building our party at the State and local level, and we have here two fine candidates, apart from our congressional candidates (all of whom I will support), two fine candidates, one for the Governor and one for the senatorship, with whom I look forward to campaigning. So I haven't got the dates at this time. I will say this: my present plans are to return to Michigan at least two more times and those will be political trips in spades (?).

QUESTION. (Asks if the Vice President favors Congress adjourning now.)

Vice President NIXON. For me to comment on that question would really be, I would say, rather unproductive. Obviously, there are only 34 Members of the Senate and 155 Members of the House - for me to say that Congress should adjourn, if that's what I wanted, would probably mean that Congress would stay in. So I think perhaps we have to leave that decision to those who have the majority and have the power.

I can only say this: I would hope that the Congress would not adjourn without at least trying to make progress on some of the other proposals which the President laid before them. Certainly the action on the health bill indicated this, though: that this Congress is not going to accept the more extreme proposal included in the Democratic platform. And I think what this Congress has done - even with its huge Democratic majorities - it has indicated that there is

great doubt that those proposals would be enacted in the next Congress in the event that the Democrats should prevail.

QUESTION. Some time ago you were working for a compromise aid-to-education bill in Congress. Are you still hopeful - still working to get one out?

Vice President NIXON. I am hopeful and I am still working. The answer is "Yes" to both questions. For those who have not perhaps had the opportunity to keep up with the latest developments, it presently is in the Rules Committee of the House. The problem is that the Republicans in the Rules Committee are for the administration bill (which I support), whereas the bill that is supported by the Democratic leadership is one that the President could not accept and would veto. Now, it seems to me that under those circumstances that the Democratic leadership, if they really want an education bill, should agree to let the Rules Committee clear one that the President can sign. If they will do that, the Republican members of the Rules Committee will send it out, in my opinion. If they don't, I don't think we can expect the Republican members of the Rules Committee to vote a bill out to the floor solely for the purpose of creating an issue rather than providing a partial solution to the school construction problem.

QUESTION. (Not clear.)

Vice President NIXON. I should have said "conference"; I should have said "conference" * * *

QUESTION. (Not clear.)

Vice President NIXON. It certainly can. I went into that in great detail with Congressman Halleck and under the circumstances, if the Rules Committee can get assurances (and it has on previous occasions) from the conferees before the Rules Committee clears a bill for conference; in fact, this is not new, it has happened on labor bills on previous occasions and on others that I could name. And you corrected me properly - it is going to the conference, but the Rules Committee wants from the conference, at least the Republicans of the Rules Committee, an assurance that the conferees will clear a bill that the President would be able to sign.

QUESTION. On the matter of the student-exchange program again. Is there any comment that you are willing to make on the specific matter of your aid's intercession in this specific financing program? Did he act under your instruction? Does this action have your support?

Vice President NIXON. My answer is that I have asked all of the members of my staff to support any of these proposals for increased student exchange, and I think certainly if my aid did do so, my only regret was that he was not successful until a very late point.

QUESTION. (Not clear.)

Vice President NIXON. In this field, as you probably are aware, we had an original administration proposal which was not accepted by the Congress, and then a majority proposal which was sent to the President and vetoed. After that, the administration has sent a new proposal to the Congress which increased the amount and which was at least intended to be a compromise between the two positions. I certainly support the new proposal, but in addition to that, I feel that I have the responsibility during the course of the campaign to examine all the proposals and to present my own independent suggestions in this area. I believe this is a very important area, I have been consulting with various Congressmen and Senators representing the districts involved, and I will have a major statement in the course of the campaign on this matter. At the present time I support the new administration proposal.

Richard Nixon, Press Conference of Vice President Richard M. Nixon, Hotel Sheraton-Cadillac, Detroit, MI Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project