Richard Nixon photo

Press Conference of Vice President Richard M. Nixon, Kentwood Arms Hotel, Springfield, MO

September 21, 1960

QUESTION. (Clark of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.) Mr. Vice President, as you know, sir, we suddenly have a Senate race in Missouri. I don't know whether you have had an opportunity to look into it, but I'm wondering if you have any observations on the candidates or the type of candidates that you would like to see or the chances you believe the Republican Party has to capture a Senate seat in Missouri?

The VICE PRESIDENT. I have heard about this race. I heard about it for the first time when I was in Missouri - St. Louis - a few days ago. The party leaders in Missouri on the Republican side, as I understand it - and I just checked today on arriving in Springfield - have not made a decision yet with regard to what candidate to back. Under those circumstances, as I have informed them, when they asked me for my advice, it would be inappropriate for me to take a position between those who are being considered for candidates because, obviously, I intend to support enthusiastically whatever man the party leaders generally agree on unanimously - and I trust it will be unanimously - agree should he selected.

As far as the chances of a Republican getting the seat in Missouri. I would say that if we can get a good strong candidate we should make a strong race for the Senate in Missouri. I say that because we have a situation here where, due to the untimely passing of Tom Hennings, we do not have an incumbent, and had Tom Hennings, of course, been a candidate we would not have had any reasonable chance, in my opinion, because he was an incumbent with great popularity in the State. With no incumbent in the race, with the Republican Party obviously on the upswing in Missouri, I believe that a good Republican candidate will mean that we will have a good chance to pick up the Senate seat here, and I intend to give it all the support I can when our party makes the decision.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, in clarification of the statement you have made for tonight, do you believe that foreign policy is a proper subject for discussion in this campaign?

The VICE PRESIDENT. Yes, I certainly do.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, I wonder if you could clarify this line in your speech, in the excerpts Mr. Klein has given us: "If Senator Kennedy intends to continue to address himself to Mr. Khrushchev and the Communist leaders, I say the American people will hold him accountable for his words." The only speech I can recollect that he has done this in was the speech in Baltimore Friday night, in which he said to Mr. Khrushchev, "Don't try and divide us." Is that the speech you are referring to?

The VICE PRESIDENT. That one and the one he made last night in Washington, in which he followed the same line.

QUESTION. Did you personally, sir, find these words objectionable?

The VICE PRESIDENT. No, not at all. I think he has a perfect right to address himself to Mr. Khrushchev, just as I have, but I disagree with what he is saying to him. I certainly disagree with him, as I indicate very strongly in my speech tonight.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, I represent the Southwest Missouri State Standard and as a representative of about 3,000 students, I would like to know what you would like to say to them.

The VICE PRESIDENT. Well, I would say to them what I have already implied in talking to our friend from California: That I trust they will be as active in this campaign as possible - I would hope on our side; but, in any event, in it on either side, and I have been tremendously encouraged by the enthusiasm of our younger voters, both high school and college age in this campaign. It's much greater than in either 1952 or 1956, and I think this is a good sign for the United States.

I would say, finally, this: That for those who want to choose public service as a career, that I would recommend it, that I think there is a lot of room in both parties for good, strong new leadership, and I would hope that they would consider, that as many students as possible would consider, both elective office as well as appointive office as a career.

QUESTION. (Milt Bowers, of Springfield's preferred radio and TV station, KTTS.) Mr. Vice President, the Associated Press quoted you on Monday of this week as saying: "We can achieve without war the goal of freedom for the captive peoples behind the Iron Curtain." How do you propose to go about this?

The VICE PRESIDENT. I propose to go about that as I indicated earlier this week in answer to the same question by a program in which we recognize that the moral force of ideas must never be underestimated, in which at the diplomatic table, in every conference in which we participate, in our information programs, in the statements we make, our national leaders, we constantly make clear our opposition toward accepting Mr. Khrushchev's ultimatum, in effect, that there shall be a Communist world in which there can be no change and a free world which must continue to change until it realizes its ultimate destination of becoming Communist.

I know that there are those who believe that this is a very unrealistic attitude. I disagree. My study of history proves to me that where the hope of freedom remains in the hearts of people, and where it is kept alive by people outside of the area which is enslaved, eventually those hopes will be realized and I feel that the United States must continue to support, in every way that we possibly can, short of war the aspirations of people toward independence through peaceful change.

Mr. Lawrence?

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, I wonder if you could clarify your suggestion that the Democrats discard criticizing the administration for what they consider military weaknesses, economic weaknesses, and so forth, so long as Mr. Khrushchev remains in this country. Would it be your feeling that they would be free again to criticize when he leaves; and if this is true, does this not give him some unusual powers to control debate in an American election?

The VICE PRESIDENT. I can only suggest they cannot, just as I have indicated on several occasions, of course, call a moratorium on the campaign while Mr. Khrushchev is here. I suggest, however, that when they do criticize that they at the same time should emphasize the strengths of America. Their emphasis has been primarily, and sometimes almost exclusively, on the weaknesses which they have been pointing up, and I think, for example, when they point up those things that they think are wrong militarily or economically they should remind Mr. Khrushchev that they believe what certainly I think is the fact - and I think certainly the facts bear this out - that the United States is, first, militarily stronger than the Soviet Union, that our economy is also stronger, and I think, too, that they should indicate that they do not believe that our prestige has fallen to an alltime low. I think the latter point being constantly reiterated at this time is most unfortunate.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, in the speeches at Fort Wayne and Louisville today you alluded to the fact that Senator Kennedy had in May suggested an expression of regrets from the President might have saved the summit conference. You said that to offer such a concession without a concession in return was working toward the cause of surrender. At Louisville you said it was the road to surrender or even to war. Do you mean to imply and indicate or infer that Mr. Kennedy is espousing a surrender policy toward the Soviet Union?

The VICE PRESIDENT. Absolutely not. Mr. Kennedy didn't know what he was espousing. That was the trouble. I've indicated time and again that Mr. Kennedy is a man that is just as strong against communism as I am, and as most Americans are, but I indicated that in this view, because of perhaps lack of understanding and experience he was naive in making a suggestion that I think would have led to exactly the thing that he would have been just as strongly against as I am.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, if you become President, what course would you pursue in our relationship with Cuba?

The VICE PRESIDENT. What course would I pursue in what?

QUESTION. Your relation with Cuba, the United States' relationship with Cuba.

The VICE PRESIDENT. If I become President, what relationship would I pursue in our relations with Cuba? I would pursue the line that we are presently pursuing. I realize that line is subject to criticism, because we have a very difficult situation; but to those who do criticize what we are doing my answer, of course, is: What is the alternative?

There are those who say, "Why don't we send Marines to Cuba?" We could do it and we could give it to Mr. Castro in 24 hours, but getting rid of Castro in Cuba would not get rid of Castroism in Cuba or in Latin America and it would set in motion, in my opinion, a chain reaction of opposition to the United States through the other Latin American countries, which could be very, very detrimental to our foreign policy. That's why I think the United States, with its great power, has to continue to treat Cuba, as it has, with consideration, always patient, working with our other friends in Latin America, to be sure that they will support our position toward Castro and toward his close association with communism in Cuba.

I would add one other thing: I think that Mr. Castro's very close identification with Mr. Khrushchev at the U.N. will not help him in Cuba.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, to date, most of your speeches and general campaign strategy have been aimed toward foreign policy and international relations. Now, every candidate realizes that they must build toward a peak just before election day in the campaign. With this in mind, is it possible you will become more explicit on domestic issues as the campaign draws to a close?

The VICE PRESIDENT. Yes. During the course of the campaign, through major pronouncements, we obviously will present programs in various fields, both foreign policy and domestic.

I have a major farm speech, for example, a second one, on Friday and I have a major statement on education which will be released for Monday papers this week. That pace, of course, will pick up as the campaign goes along.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, you mentioned that there would be a growing resentment against America if we interfered in the Castro situation. Do you believe that there is already a growing resentment against America in other parts of the world; and, if you do, do you have any plans to counteract it after you become President?

The VICE PRESIDENT. The role of a country as strong as the United States in our relations with countries that are less strong to the south and, for that matter, other countries as well, is never a very easy one. There is resentment against the so-called colossus of the north, resentment which we could understand if we were in the same position, I am sure.

Now, as far as our program toward Cuba is concerned though I would say that, from what I have learned, from talking to some Latin American leaders and from the reports I have read from our diplomats who have talked to Latin American leaders in other countries, they applaud what the United States has been doing toward Castro, by the strength that we have shown, the fact that we have not thrown our weight around in a way that many would have thought would have been unreasonable. They feel we were correct, I think, the majority of them, in acting as we did with regard to the sugar, the taking away of special consideration that we had with regard to sugar. They thought that was justified in view of the Cuban Government's expropriation of much of our property, but I think our present course in Cuba has not lost us friends in Latin America. If anything, it has gained us friends.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, among Senator Kennedy's statements which you criticize is the statement that Mr. Khrushchev could well be tempted to make the most of "how much faster your economy is growing than ours." Is it your position, sir, that Mr. Khrushchev hasn't been making capital out of this already and wouldn't he have done so if Senator Kennedy hadn't mentioned it?

The VICE PRESIDENT. Mr. Khrushchev has certainly told me that his economy was growing faster than ours; but, on the other hand, after his visit to the United States, I don't think Mr. Khrushchev is quite as confident of that as he thought. Might I also suggest that, as far as this comparative rate of growth is concerned, I intend to discuss that tomorrow in my speech at Rockford. I will develop it further, but I will touch upon it here only to this extent - by saying that when we consider the percentages of growth that is no indication of when and how Mr. Khrushchev or any other country will catch us because, as far as the absolute gap is concerned - and I will develop this further tomorrow - the absolute gap will continue to grow in our favor and not in theirs.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, some of us in the back of the room didn't get your complete answer to Mr. Potter's question. You said you thought that Mr. Kennedy didn't know what he was espousing, and what was - would you mind repeating the rest of your answer, sir?

The VICE PRESIDENT. Well, as I recall Mr. Potter's question, it was: Was I indicating that Mr. Kennedy favored surrender to the Soviet Union, that he was espousing a policy of surrender when he suggested that President Eisenhower should have expressed regrets to Mr. Khrushchev?

And my answer was: Absolutely not; that I had said that Mr. Kennedy really didn't know, in my opinion, what he was saying and the implications of what he was suggesting, and I suggested that the reason he, therefore, had made that statement was that he had a lack of understanding of what it would lead to. I went on and further said that Mr. Kennedy was just as strong against communism as I was; he would oppose surrender just as strongly as I would. The question is the particular procedure that he recommended here, the advisability of it. In my opinion, it was a procedure that if followed, would have ended up in a result that he would have opposed as much as I do.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, former Representative Dewey Short said today he would consider making the race if he had your support. If nominated, would he have your support?


QUESTION. Will you repeat the question, Mr. Vice President?

The VICE PRESIDENT. Yes. I'll repeat it.

He said that former Representative Dewey Short said today he would consider making the race in Missouri if he had my support, and the question was: If he were nominated, would he have my support?

And the answer is: The nominee of the party will certainly have my support. If Mr. Short is nominated, I will support him enthusiastically. He's a very good candidate, as are the others that are being considered. [Laughter.]

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, now that the crisis in the Congo has subsided somewhat, what course do you think that the American foreign policy should take as far as the African situation is concerned?

The VICE PRESIDENT. The question, as I understand, is: Now that the crisis in the Congo has subsided somewhat, what course should American foreign policy take with regard to the Congo and particularly Africa in general?

That is a subject that I intend to develop later in more detail in the course of major speeches, but I will say at this point that I

believe, with regard to the newly developing countries that are acquiring independence, that the formula that was developed here with regard to the Congo is one that may possibly have to be further refined so that it can go into action when needed in other countries. Here the United Nations by its action came into a situation in which there was chaos in the country and in which, if the United Nations had not moved in with strength, the only other power in the area, which was held by the Communists, would have taken over. They always come in where chaos exists. So, I believe this pattern having been established in the Congo must also be continued in other areas as well.

Now, beyond that, may I say, looking at what the United States does, apart from the United Nations, which, of course, we should support, I have supported for some time - and I still support - a program of greatly expanded exchange and technical assistance for Latin America - Latin America, I should say, but particularly for Africa and the newly developing countries; and I have espoused these programs because I recognize that all of the developmental money that we put into these countries will go for nothing unless they can have the trained technicians both in government and on the productive side which can make use of it effectively. It just doesn't make sense to turn these countries loose, to provide money for them, without also giving them the opportunity to develop the trained people who can use the funds an also can handle the independence, and on these scores the United States must assume a unilateral responsibility as well as supporting multilateral action through the United Nations.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, Monday, Governor Rockefeller said he was holding off action on the medical care program because of the means test and the fact that he thought the State would have difficulty financing it. Do you feel this is going to be modified in the coming session of the Congress or would you favor eliminating that, the means test, or, as he wants to do, put it under the social security system?

The VICE PRESIDENT. Governor Rockefeller's position on the medical care, as we both indicated prior to the convention, has differed from the position that I have taken. He favors financing the medical care out of Social Security and I favor the Federal-State program, which was contained in the Javits bill which, as you recall, was defeated in the Senate. My view is that the bill passed by the last Congress was certainly a great improvement over what we have. It was a step in the right direction. However, I believe that this bill is a most inadequate answer to the whole problem and, in my opinion, the next Congress, as early as possible, should try to consider again a program which will deal with the problem. I happen to believe that there should be - and I will continue to support - a program which will be Federal-State in character and which is not compulsory, such as the social security program would be, from the standpoint of its financing. But that would be my comment with regard to the general situation.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, do you think the American people are mature enough to weigh the merits of a foreign policy debate, the Democratic case against your own case, despite whether Mr. Khrushchev is in the country or not, or is there some other reason for a moratorium?

The VICE PRESIDENT. There's no reason at all for a moratorium, in my opinion. I have indicated that the presidential campaign must go forward, with this one personal restriction which I placed on myself. I don't intend to comment on what Mr. Khrushchev, himself, says because that is the President's prerogative. I believe the American people are mature enough to consider foreign policy both while Mr. Khrushchev is here and while he is out of the country.

I would only suggest that it is the responsibility of candidates, particularly while he is here, at a time when they are pointing

up the weaknesses of America, to emphasize our strength, and I have been emphasizing our strengths. I would hope Senator Kennedy would emphasize them more than he has been emphasizing them.

QUESTION. Mr. Vice President, the other day Castro's brother hinted that they might want to reclaim the big U.S. Naval Base---

The VICE PRESIDENT. Guantanamo. Yes.

QUESTION. In that case, what course do you think the United States should follow and what course do you think they might follow?

The VICE PRESIDENT. What course should the United States follow in the event that Castro's brother's threat of taking over Guantanamo is carried through?

My answer to that is that I think it is very unwise for a person who is serving in my position to indicate in advance what might happen in the event that certain distasteful actions take place. The net result of that, if I were to answer that question, as to what we planned to do, might be to trigger the very thing we don't want. So, consequently, I would only say this: We trust that this doesn't happen, and I believe that our plans as to what we should do should be announced then and decided. They should not be discussed publicly.

QUESTION. Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President.

Just a moment, Mr. Vice President. Here in the Ozarks we would like to know, I think, the residents here, before we conclude this press conference: How's the old knee? How's it coming along?

The VICE PRESIDENT. Well, I think mine is the only knee in captivity that hasn't been blamed on football. I would like to be able to blame it on football, but I got it in a much more rugged contest - running for the Presidency. But it's in good shape - good shape.

Richard Nixon, Press Conference of Vice President Richard M. Nixon, Kentwood Arms Hotel, Springfield, MO Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project