Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Guests Following a Dinner at Secretary Connally's Ranch in Floresville, Texas.
THE PRESIDENT. [1.] Well, I want to say first of all that we are most grateful for the welcome that you have given us to Texas, and speaking in a very personal sense, I, of course, rather than saying "Mr. Secretary," would like to say to John and Nellie Connally that we are particularly happy that we have had a chance to visit this ranch, to see a lot of old friends, and also to make some new friends, as well.
As I listened to John Connally, and as I listened to some of the things he had to say about me and my age, and as I thought back on some of those dope stories suggesting that he was no longer a potential candidate for anything, I began to wonder. [Laughter]
I would like to return the compliment, not simply because it is a case of when one man scratches your back, you scratch his in return--and, of course, it is much more pleasant when it is a lady--but nevertheless, whatever the case might be, I would like to say a word about the appointment that I made of John Connally as Secretary of the Treasury; how it was greeted with such surprise in many quarters, applause from some, a wonder among others, and criticism, of course, from many that you would expect.
Generally speaking, the line was, well, what does John Connally know about being Secretary of the Treasury? They recognized he was a fine lawyer, they recognized he was a very successful political leader in Texas, they recognized he had been a great Governor of this State, but what in the world did he know about being Secretary of the Treasury? And the country has found out.
All that I can say is this: When I named him to this position, I named him to the position because I had had the privilege of knowing him as a man through many years, and particularly well during the years I have been President. And based on the--and it is hard to realize that it has been 18 months, almost, now that he has been in this position--based on those 18 months, I can say that John Connally, who has been a Governor and now a Cabinet officer and was a former Secretary of the Navy, is, in my view, a man who has demonstrated that he is capable of holding any job in the United States that he would like to pursue.
I am just glad he is not seeking the Democratic nomination. [Laughter]
If I could just add to that by saying that we remember the new economic policy of August 15. We remember the United States at long last standing up for its position in international monetary affairs, in trade matters and the rest, and the leadership that the Secretary of the Treasury provided. We remember his leadership in the fight on inflation, in all of the other areas, but I also recall those times when clearly out of his special capacity as Secretary of the Treasury, his capacity as the head of the Cost of Living Council, as an adviser, as a friend, as a counselor in all areas, I remember how much he has contributed to this Administration.
And to all those, I would add one final thing. Certainly his greatest contribution was bringing Nellie Connally to Washington, D.C. She has been a scintillating star on the Washington social scene. Don't get the idea that that is bad, necessarily, but I can assure you that in our Cabinet family and among those who have known her, be they Democrats or Republicans, that they have all been as warmly affectionate toward her as the people of this State are. And we are so happy that here with their friends, we can share this special evening with you.
Because I know you have had a very splendid dinner tonight, and because I know this has probably never happened on this ranch before--well, at least if it has happened, it has never been done by one who held the office that I hold--I think that all of you would like to join me in raising our glasses to John and Nellie Connally.
Now, with that, let me just say a word with regard to what John has suggested. It did occur to him as we were sitting here that so many of our guests don't have the opportunity to talk with the one who happens to be the guest of honor, as those who are at only the one table at which we are seated. It doesn't mean that there are many pearls of wisdom that are passed out here that you are missing, but it does mean simply that perhaps on an occasion like this, since this is a party of close friends, since this whole great State is covered, that I know that both Pat and I would have liked to have sat at every table and talked to each one of you.
So for the next few minutes, if you like, in a totally nonpartisan, nonpolitical way, if you would like to just rather imagine that we were sitting in your living room, and you were chatting and asking questions, I will try to answer them.
I can assure you, if I don't know the answers, John will.
So with that, in that very informal way, we will be glad to take any of your questions that you have for a few minutes, and we will not keep you too long, unless the questions take too long.
[2.] Q. Mr. President, do you anticipate any developments in Vietnam other than those courageous statements we heard on the television the other night, that you might tell us here?
THE PRESIDENT. Briefly I would respond by saying that the evaluation of the situation in Vietnam today is the same that I gave then.
As General Abrams reported then, and as he has updated his report as of today, the South Vietnamese on the ground are resisting very bravely a massive Communist North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam. That invasion will continue. The offensive will continue in its intensity, and we can expect over the next 4 to 5 weeks that there will be some battles lost by the South Vietnamese and some will be won, but it is his professional judgment-General Abrams' professional judgment-that the South Vietnamese will be able to hold and deny to the North Vietnamese their goal, which, of course, is to impose on the people of South Vietnam a Communist government.
Now to keep it all in perspective, let us understand that when we hear about this town or that one that is under attack, we must remember that as of this time, the North Vietnamese have utterly failed in their ability to rally the South Vietnamese people to their cause.
We also must remember that despite their moving in on certain territory and in certain towns, that over 90 percent of the people of South Vietnam are still under the Government of South Vietnam, and not under control of the Communists.
So keeping it in perspective, while we can expect, and should expect, as is always the case in a war of any kind, and particularly a war of this type--we can expect some days when the news may be a South Vietnamese setback, and other days when it will be otherwise. It is the view, the professional view of the man on the spot, best able to judge, that the South Vietnamese will be able to hold, provided-and this comes to what we do-provided the United States continues to furnish the air and naval support that we have been furnishing to stop this invasion.
Now, without repeating what I said last Wednesday night, but simply to underline it, I would like to make just two or three points quickly, frankly, to this group of friends here in Texas.
Questions have been raised about the decision that I have made, which is to the effect that as long as the North Vietnamese were conducting an invasion and an offensive in South Vietnam, and were killing South Vietnamese and Americans in South Vietnam, that I would, as Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces, order air and naval strikes on military targets in North Vietnam.
I realize that that decision has caused considerable controversy in this country. I understand why that would be the case. There are many people who believe that the United States has done enough in South Vietnam, that what we should do is to find a way to get out as quickly as we can, and let whatever the consequences are flow from that, which would mean, of course, a Communist takeover.
Let me tell you the reasons why I feel that it is vitally important that the United States continue to use its air and naval power against targets in North Vietnam, as well as in South Vietnam, to prevent a Communist takeover and a Communist victory over the people of South Vietnam.
First, because there are 69,000 Americans still in Vietnam--that will be reduced to 49,000 by the first of July--and I, as Commander ha Chief, have a responsibility to see to it that their fives are adequately protected, and I, of course, will meet that responsibility.
Second, because as we consider the situation in Vietnam, we must remember that if the North Vietnamese were to take over in South Vietnam, as a result of our stopping our support in the air and on the sea--we have no ground support whatever, there are no American ground forces in action in South Vietnam and none will be--but when we consider that situation, if there were such a takeover, we must consider the consequences.
There is, first, the consequence to the people of South Vietnam. We look back to what happened historically. In 1954, when the North Vietnamese took over in North Vietnam, the Catholic Bishop of Danang estimated that at least 500,000 people in North Vietnam who had opposed the Communist takeover in the North were either murdered or starved to death in slave labor camps.
I saw something of that when Mrs. Nixon and I were in there in 1956, when we visited refugee camps where over a million North Vietnamese fled from the Communist tyranny to come to the South. If, at this particular point, the Communists were to take over in South Vietnam, you can imagine what would happen to the hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese who sided with their own Government and with the United States against the Communists. It would be a bloodbath that would stain the hands of the United States for time immemorial.
That is bad enough. I know there are some who say we have done enough, what happens to the South Vietnamese at this particular time is something that should not be our concern. We have sacrificed enough for them. So let's put it in terms of the United States alone, and then we really see why the only decision that any man in the position of President of the United States can make is to authorize the necessary air and naval strikes that will prevent a Communist takeover.
In the event that one country like North Vietnam, massively assisted with the most modem technical weapons by two Communist super powers--in the event that that country is able to invade another country and conquer it, you can see how that pattern would be repeated in other countries throughout the world in the Mideast, in Europe, and in others as well.
If, on the other hand, that kind of aggression is stopped in Vietnam, and fails there, then it will be discouraged in other parts of the world. Putting it quite directly then, what is on the line in Vietnam is not just peace for Vietnam, but peace in the Mideast, peace in Europe, and peace not just for the 5 or 6 or 7 years immediately ahead of us, but possibly for a long time in the future.
As I put it last Wednesday night, I want, and all America wants, to end the war in Vietnam. I want, and all Americans want, to bring our men home from Vietnam. But I want, and I believe all Americans want, to bring our men home and to end this war in a way that the younger brothers and the sons of the men who have fought and died in Vietnam won't be fighting in another Vietnam 5 or 10 years from now. That is what this is all about.
[3.] Q. May we raise our glasses and pay tribute to the courage of the President of the United States.
THE PRESIDENT. I am most grateful for that toast. Incidentally, I hope the champagne holds out for the evening.
But I do want to say that in the final analysis, what is really on the line here, of course, is the position of the United States of America as the strongest free world power, as a constructive force for peace in the world.
Let us imagine for a moment what the world would be like if the United States were not respected in the world. What would the world be like if friends of the United States throughout the non-Communist world lost confidence in the United States? It would be a world that would be much less safe. It would be a world that would be much more dangerous, not only in terms of war but in terms of the denial of freedom, because when we talk about the United States of America and all of our faults, let us remember in this country we have never used our power to break the peace, only to restore it or keep it, and we have never used our power to destroy freedom, only to defend it.
Now, I think that is a precious asset for the world. I also feel one other thing, and I will close this rather long answer on this point: John Connally has referred to the office of the Presidency of the United States. Earlier this evening I talked to President Johnson on the phone. We are of different parties. We both served in this office. While I had my political differences with him, and he with me, I am sure he would agree that each of us in his way tries to leave that office with as much respect and with as much strength in the world as he possibly can--that is his responsibility-and to do it the best way that he possibly can.
Let me say in this respect I have noted that when we have traveled abroad to 18 countries, particularly even when we went to the People's Republic of China, the office of President, not the man, but the office of President of the United States is respected in every country we visited. I think we will find that same respect in Moscow. But if the United States at this time leaves Vietnam and allows a Communist takeover, the office of President of the United States will lose respect, and I am not going to let that happen.
[4.] Q. Mr. President, may I ask you about strategic targets in North Vietnam? I have been told for years by the pilots that there are dams up there that would be very much defeating to the North Vietnamese, who have defied what you have tried to prove in the way of peace. Is this true or false? Has this crossed your mind?
THE PRESIDENT. The question is with regard to the targets in North Vietnam, and particularly with regard to the dams and the dikes, which many of the pilots believe would be very effective strategic targets.
I would say on that score that we have, as you know, authorized strikes, and we have made them over the past 4 weeks, since the Communist offensive began, in the Hanoi-Haiphong area.
I have also indicated, as this offensive continues, if it does continue, that we will continue to make strikes on military targets throughout North Vietnam.
Now, the problem that is raised with regard to dams or dikes is that, while it is a strategic target, and indirectly a military target, it would result in an enormous number of civilian casualties. That is something that we want to avoid. It is also something we believe is not needed.
Just let me say that as far as the targets in North Vietnam are concerned, that we are prepared to use our military and naval strength against military targets throughout North Vietnam, and we believe that the North Vietnamese are taking a very great risk if they continue their offensive in the South.
I will just leave it there, and they can make their own choice.
In other words, I believe that we can limit our strikes to military targets without going to targets that involve civilian casualties. That is what we have done, and we can do that in the future, and do the job.
[5.] Q. Mr. President, turning to domestic America. You know there are great misgivings in the press about how America feels about itself, and where we are going. I don't think there is anyone better equipped to tell us how you feel about where America is going, not today, but for its future, and about its own confidence in itself, and I would like to hear your remarks.
THE PRESIDENT. The question relates to domestic America, the feeling that many Americans have that possibly we, in America, are losing confidence in ourselves. The question asks me to evaluate how I see the mood of America, as I understand it, and what the future for America is in terms of confidence in itself.
That, of course, would allow a rather extended reply. Let me see if I can get at the heart of it. First, let me relate it to the last question.
I know there are those who say that the trouble with America's confidence, most of it, is due to the fact that we are involved in Vietnam, and that once the war in Vietnam is over that then the trouble on the campus will go away, the division in the country, the polarization and all the rest. That is just nonsense.
Let me say the American people do not want war. We did not start this war. Let me say also that when I see people carrying signs saying "Stop the War," I am tempted to say "Tell it to Hanoi; they are the ones that have started the war, not the United States of America."
Nevertheless, while peace is our goal, and peace will be achieved--not just peace in our time, but we hope peace that will live for a generation or longer--that is why we went to Peking. That is why we are going to Moscow. That is why we are trying to end the war responsibly, in a way that would discourage those who would start war, rather than encourage them.
Let us well understand, that if the United States, as a great nation, fails in Vietnam as we come to the end of this long road, and as we see the end, and as we know that it is not necessary to fail, I can think of nothing that would destroy the confidence of the American people more than that. So I would begin with that proposition, answering it on the negative side.
Now, turning to the domestic issue, what about the attitude of America toward itself? We often hear it said that we, in this country, are so divided about race issues, we are divided between labor and management, rich and poor, environmentalists, those who are against doing anything about the environment, and so forth and so on, that it is a rather hopeless future.
I would simply raise this one question in that respect. If you sit in Washington, if you limit yourself to the group that we in Washington generally talk to, and this is no reflection on them, because we all tend to be sort of victims of intellectual incest there, what happens is that you get the impression that everything is wrong with America; that the majority of the people of this country have lost faith in themselves, faith in their country; they no longer have the will to work, the will to defend the country, the will to build a great nation.
That is a point of view. That point of view tends to be fed--and I say this, incidentally, not in anger, and perhaps more in sorrow--it tends to be fed by the tendency of some in the media--not all, but some in the media--constantly to emphasize a negative. I am speaking now more of the national media, rather than those who are out across the great heartland of America. But the tendency to emphasize those negatives and to create in the minds of the American people the impression that this country, just before its 200th birthday, has reached the point where it has lost its sense of destiny; the American people no longer have the will to greatness which they once had.
I can only say that as I travel through America I find a different story. Let me point it out to you in a different way. I was talking to an ambassador recently from a country in Europe who had recently been accredited to this country. This was several months ago. This ambassador told me that he had lived in Washington for a while, and then he had taken a trip out through the country. He said, "Mr. President, as I traveled through the country"--he had been to Illinois; he had been to California; he had also been to Texas, as a matter of fact, to Florida, to Georgia, and back to Washington--and he said, "As I go out into the country I see a different America than I see in Washington, D.C." I believe that the heart of America is still strong. I believe that the character of America is still strong. But I think now is the time when we must stand up against the trend toward permissiveness, the trend toward weakness, the trend toward something for nothing, and if we do that, this country is going to regain its self-confidence.
I believe that is going to happen.
[6.] Q. Mr. President, I would like to ask you this question: Mr. Moncrief 1 spoke my sentiments, and I think most of the people in Texas or at least 99 percent of them are in favor of what you are doing in Vietnam, but why is it in the East you get the newspapers, the students, and Members of the Congress and the Senate are complaining about what you are doing, but they never mention what the Communists and North Vietnamese are doing by invading South Vietnam, and they are killing thousands of people. They seem to think that is right, and what we are doing is wrong. But why don't they ever mention that?
THE PRESIDENT. I think that would be a very excellent editorial for somebody to write.
1 W. A. Moncrief, Sr., was an oilman and businessman from Fort Worth, Tex.
Let me, in all fairness, say this: I do not question the patriotism of any critics of this war. Reasonable and honest and decent Americans can disagree about whether we should have gotten into Vietnam. They can disagree about how the war has been conducted, disagree about who is at fault now, and so forth, but let's just look at the record as it is at the present time.
Since I have come into office we have withdrawn half a million men from Vietnam. We have offered everything that could be offered except to impose a Communist government on the people of South Vietnam, and their answer has been a massive invasion of South Vietnam by the North.
Now, under these circumstances, instead of the critics criticizing brave Americans flying dangerous air missions, hitting military targets in North Vietnam and military targets only, instead of criticizing them trying to prevent a Communist takeover, I think they ought to direct a little criticism to the Communists that are trying to keep this war going. That is what they ought to be doing.
TRADE WITH CHINA AND RUSSIA
[7.] Q. What are the possibilities of trade with China and Russia, as you now see it?
THE PRESIDENT. Looking at both of these countries, we must realize--and I know that there are many here who have traveled certainly to Russia, and to other Communist countries, although very few perhaps have been to China, at least in recent years--and looking at both of these countries realistically, as far as China is concerned, while we have now opened the door for a new relationship insofar as trade is involved, realistically, the amount of trade that the United States will have with the People's Republic of China will be considerably limited over a period of time.
The Japanese, for example, have found that out. They, of course, are much closer to Mainland China, and they have been trying to trade with them over a period of years, and yet they find that the amount of trade that they are able to have with the People's Republic of China is, frankly, much less than they expected when they began to open trade up.
We should not expect too much in the short range. We could expect a considerable amount further down the road.
Now, with the Soviet Union, this, of course, will be a major subject that will be discussed at the summit meeting. There will be considerable opportunities for trade with the Soviet Union.
The Secretary of Agriculture, Mr. Butz, was there discussing the possibilities of trade insofar as agricultural products are concerned--the selling of some of our grain to the Soviet Union.
We have also had some discussions between the Secretary of Commerce, Mr. Stans--and Mr. Peterson, now the new Secretary of Commerce, is discussing this with the Russian delegation, and we expect more trade opportunities to develop with the Soviet Union.
Realistically, however, we must recognize that where you have a Communist country dealing with a capitalist country, or non-Communist country, the possibilities of trade are seriously limited because of an inability to have a method for financing it.
I know I have heard some American businessmen say, wouldn't it be great if we could just sell just a few consumer items to 800 million Chinese. That is fine, but what are they going to sell us, and how are we going to finance it?
That is a problem, to a lesser extent, with the Soviet Union, but also a problem with them.
I would say then these new relationships we have developed and are developing with the People's Republic of China and with the Soviet Union will certainly lead to more trade in the years ahead-trade in nonstrategic items, of course, so long as those countries are engaged in supporting activities such as those in Vietnam.
Q. Mr. President, leave it to John. He will work it out. [Laughter]
TACTICS IN VIETNAM
[8.] Q. Mr. President, one thing that is bothering me is, what is the basis for the criticism of our bombing Haiphong and Hanoi? Were the United States in war, do you not think that they would immediately bomb Washington and San Francisco and New York, and isn't the quickest way to stop this war to stop the supplies that are going to North Vietnam from their friends?
THE PRESIDENT. The United States has shown restraint such as a great power has never shown in history in its handling of the war in Vietnam. At the present time, however, now that we have gone the extra mile in offering a peace settlement and peace terms, a cease-fire, an exchange of prisoners of war--and Mr. Ross Perot 2 can tell you about some of the things we have gone through there and the barbarism with which our prisoners of war are treated. We have offered a total withdrawal of all our forces within 6 months. President Thieu has offered to resign a month before a new election that would be internationally supervised in which the Communists would participate in the election, participate in the supervisory body.
2 H. Ross Perot, a Texas businessman, headed United We Stand, a private organization formed to call attention to the plight of American prisoners of war. In 1969, as part of efforts to improve the treatment of the POW's, he attempted unsuccessfully to deliver Christmas packages to American prisoners in North Vietnam.
Having offered all that, and then faced with this invasion, certainly the least the United States can do--and that is all that I have ordered--is to use our air and sea power to hit military targets in North Vietnam. That is what we have done and that is what we are going to continue to do until they stop their invasion of South Vietnam.
GOLD PRICES AND PRODUCTIVITY
[9.] Q. Mr. President, most of us who have observed the moves that you have made in freeing the gold and expecting the rest of the world to let their currencies float are pleased. At least the ones that I know.
The greatness of the country is built on the willingness of its people to work. The success of this country is built on that. When Japan can settle a strike in a days, a shipping strike, and we take 6 months, why can't we do this a little more efficiently and quickly? When we take people away from their jobs and do not have them produce, we are losing the productive value of these people, and if we don't do this, will we not face a further devaluation in the ensuing months ahead?
THE PRESIDENT. I think most of you could hear the question. It relates to what I think is the totally correct policy of the Secretary of the Treasury in which we sought a new alignment of currency, we raised the price of gold, as a result we improved the competitive position of American products in world markets.
But when we come to the fundamental point--and this is the one you are getting at--it is very simply this: Unless the United States is prepared to build a wall around itself, we have to compete with other nations in the world. Now in order to compete with other nations in the world, we, who pay by far the highest wages in the world, have to be more productive than other people in the world, and that means that we can't afford work stoppages that are too long.
The strike that you refer to, the longshoremen's strike, was one that was certainly not defensible and had enormously negative effects on the economy of this country.
We also, in that connection, if we are going to be competitive, have to have a tax structure which will encourage new investment in capital rather than discourage it, and we also have to have, if I may boldly suggest it, a recognition of the need to respect what I call the work ethic in this country.
Now, briefly, on all three points. With regard to strikes of the longshoremen, railroads, transportation generally, the Congress of the United States has had before it for the past 2 years a bill that would require, in effect, compulsory arbitration of such disputes and bring them to a halt, and the Congress has not acted.
I think this, of course, is a major failure on the part of the Congress, and it is time that we had Congressmen and Senators-and incidentally, this is not partisan-Democrat and Republican, that have the courage to go down to Washington and vote for legislation in the public interest that will stop these transportation tie-ups as we had on the docks and other places, and I think we should get them.
Second, with regard to the competitive position of American products in the world, there has been a lot of talk lately about the need for tax reform, and a great deal of criticism of so-called tax loopholes. I am not going to go into that in any detail, when I have the major expert on tax reform fight here in front of me. And it is no accident he is on my right, incidentally, in this respect. [Laughter]
But I simply want to say this: One of the loopholes is supposed to be depreciation. Another loophole is supposed to be depletion. Now all of you here in this State know my own position on depletion and depreciation, and you also know that this Administration has been subjected to considerable criticism on the ground that we are for big business and we are for rich oilmen and against people.
I will tell you what we are for. What we are for is for more jobs for America and for American industry to be able to compete abroad. Do you know where the most efficient steel plant in the world is? It is not in the United States. It is in Japan. Do you know where some of the most efficient new kinds of chemical plants in the world are? We have some very good ones in the United States, but the best new ones may be in Germany.
How did this happen? It didn't happen because our American businessmen are less imaginative, our scientists and engineers less capable. I believe we have got the best in the world. But in both Japan and Germany, after they had gone through the devastation of World War II, they adopted a tax policy in terms of the depreciation that encouraged investment in new plants and equipment and research on a basis unheard of in any capitalist country in the world before.
As far as I am concerned, that is why I strongly favor not only the present depreciation rates, but going even further than that, so we can get our plants and equipment more effective. That is why, in terms of depletion, rather than moving in the direction of reducing the depletion allowance, let us look at the fact that all the evidence now shows that we are going to have a major energy crisis in this country in the eighties. To avoid that energy crisis we have to provide incentive rather than disincentive for people to go out and explore for oil. That is why you have depletion, and the people have got to understand it.
Now, if I can just spend a moment on the last point, the work ethic. First, let us well understand that there are millions of fine Americans that work hard, are proud of their work, and they have made this country, they built this country, and they are going to build it bigger in the future.
But let us also understand that there has developed--and this goes back to the earlier question which I could not answer too precisely because it is difficult to answer in an effective way a question so profound in its implications but in recent years there has grown up the idea more and more and more of something for nothing; the idea that where a job is concerned that we will take those jobs only if they happen to be jobs that we consider, as the term is used, not menial.
Let me ask any of you who have traveled to Los Angeles, to Miami, to New York, and so forth, Denver, Dallas, anyplace, pick up your papers, look at the Help Wanted ads, and you will find thousands of Help Wanted ads in those particular papers, and yet you will find unemployment, and in the city of New York alone, a million on the welfare rolls.
Now this is not always true. It may not even be true in a majority of cases, but it is sometimes true, and very simply, it is that in case after case, an individual who is able to work refuses to work because the job is not one that he feels is up to his capabilities. He feels that it is too menial a job.
Well, I must have grown up in a different time. I say that no job is menial if it provides bread on the table and shelter for a family. Rather than for a man to have to go on public welfare, he ought to take the job.
It is that spirit that we need revived in this country, and we have to revive it not only down among those who might potentially be on welfare rolls, but up and down our whole society, because let us be quite honest in our own self-evaluation: The tendency, too often, in modern education, in some of our great colleges and our great universities, is to downplay the necessity for excellence, for pride in work, and all these other great values that have made this country what it is.
I just want to say on that point, I have great confidence in the future as far as America's competitive position is concerned, but let us make no mistake about it: Simply letting the dollar float, having a realignment of currency, erecting temporary barriers, a 15-percent or a 10-percent surcharge or the rest, isn't going to do the trick. The United States will be able to compete in the world only when the United States and the people of this country are competitive in every sense of the word. We can do it, but we have to tighten our belts if we are going to meet that task.
[10.] SECRETARY CONNALLY. Ladies and gentlemen, the President has been going for about an hour. Let's see if we can take one more question, and we won't count this: Mr. President, the people here from Dallas, Corpus Christi, Houston, Austin, and in very recent months, I suppose, perhaps, the most emotional, most critical issue in those cities has been the question of busing. Do you have any comment on it?
THE PRESIDENT. My views on the merits of busing have been expressed on many occasions. I will repeat them only briefly, and then talk about the remedy briefly.
The reason that I am against busing for the purpose of achieving racial balance in our schools is that it leads to inferior education. Let's look at the situation with regard to what the whole busing controversy is about, and there are many lawyers here tonight, and all of you are, of course, familiar with the famous, landmark case of Brown v. the Board GI Education in 1954.
The very title of that case tells us something. Brown v. the Board GI Education, which provided that the dual school system had to be eliminated, was about education, and correctly, in the opinion of observers at that time, and I was one of them, and certainly most observers now, a system that legally sets up a dual school system and divides people according to race is one that could lead and would inevitably lead to inferior education. So Brown v. the Board of Education dealt with that problem.
That problem has been moved on very effectively, particularly during this Administration, to the great credit of those particularly in Southern States, where some of the dual school systems had to be removed. We now find that the South has gone really further than the North insofar as meeting the goal of getting rid of a dual school system.
Let's look at busing. Where busing comes in, is when in attempting to deal with the problem a board of education or a court orders that schoolchildren be bused across town away from their neighborhood schools in order to create some artificial racial balance.
If you will read the decisions, they never use the term "racial balance," but there are over 23 that we already have identified where that is exactly what the court was ordering.
Now, why do I believe this is wrong? Because in my view, when you bus children, particularly young children, away from their neighborhood schools, into an unfamiliar neighborhood, whether they are black or white, it leads to inferior education. It also has some other disadvantages. It divides communities; it creates hostility among people that didn't exist before. I think that for that reason, we have got to find more effective ways to have equality of education opportunity for all Americans than to use busing.
So that is why I have come up with these remedies: First, a moratorium on any new busing orders for a year. We have asked the Congress to act on that.
Second, I have ordered the Attorney General of the United States to intervene in those cases where the courts have gone beyond what the Supreme Court presently has laid down as the requirement insofar as eliminating the dual school system is concerned.
And then, third, we have asked for the enactment of the Equal Educational Opportunity Act, under which we would upgrade education in inferior schools, but we specifically provide that busing would not be required at all for children sixth grade and below, and then for any other cases above that, would be used not as the first resort, but only as a last resort, and then only temporarily.
It also provides, incidentally, when this act is passed, that in those States that have had imposed upon them busing orders that went beyond what the new legislation would require, those cases could be reopened.
Now, where do you stand? At the present time, the Congress has had this request for legislation for over 2 months. It has not acted. The prospects for its acting do not appear hopeful at the present time. In my view, before the Congress goes home for its election recess, the Congress owes it to the American people to act, because unless it does act, it means that tens of thousands of students in scores of communities across this country are going to be subjected to busing orders that will provide inferior education for them, and that should be avoided. So I believe that the Congress should act to deal with the problem. If the Congress does not act, and refuses to face up to the problem, then the only resort that we have left is to proceed with the constitutional amendment.
So under these circumstances, I realize that the position that I have taken is subject to honest criticism, honest debate by people who have considered the subject just as I have tried to consider it, with the interest of better education as well as eliminating the dual school system, and providing equality of opportunity of education for all concerned.
But I simply conclude my answer to this question by saying that in this country if you were to provide for--I am talking now about the most extreme advocates of busing--if you were to provide for busing students in the major metropolitan centers like New York and Chicago and Detroit and Los Angeles, in plans that go further than even the most liberal plans have ever provided, it would still leave the great majority of black children in inferior schools in central cities who would never get the benefit of a so-called better education.
So I say that the better answer is to upgrade the education for those children who would otherwise be a lost generation, but let's do not impair the education for all other children as a result of busing orders. That is the way I think we should approach it.
FELIX McKNIGHT (managing editor, Dallas Times Herald). Mr. President, your days and nights are very long, and we are very grateful for your services. As a newspaperman, I would like to exercise my prerogative and say thank you, Mr. President.
Note: Secretary Connally introduced the President at 9:14 p.m. on the lawn of the Picosa Ranch as follows:
My friends, may I have your attention for a moment, please. Please go ahead with eating your food, if you wish, but time is running, and while we have you all here, there are a few things that I would like to say for myself and for Nellie.
First, I think I have known most of you, or all of you, long enough to where you will completely and fully understand when I say how perfectly delighted Nellie and I are to have you on this ranch. Under this roof are many--not all; I can't say all, because I think we have a few members of the press here--but many of the dearest friends that we have in this world. [Laughter]
I am always an optimistic fellow, and at times a little vain, perhaps, and I wouldn't want our distinguished guest to leave you assuming I had assembled under one roof 40' by 60' all the friends I had. But in all seriousness, everybody by the name of Connally, or married into or kin to the family, so far as I am concerned, is grateful to all of you for so much.
Years ago I said to many of you, as I traveled about this State, that I hoped that no occasion ever presented itself where I had a microphone and the opportunity to do so, when I did not express our profound thanks for the kindness, for the generosity, for the thoughtfulness, for the support, and, above all, for the confidence which all of you have so clearly shown over the years, and I am grateful for that.
But if I am grateful for the occasion for those reasons, think how doubly pleased we are that on this particular evening we have the great and rare privilege of hosting the President and the First Lady of the United States.
You rose, you applauded, you manifested your confidence and your support and your feeling about the President, his lovely wife, but before we go further, let me impose upon your time just a moment or two to say to you that I have been privileged to serve in the Cabinet of President Nixon for a number of months. During those months, I have had an opportunity to see him in moments of satisfaction, in moments of serenity, in troubled moments, and moments of decision. And I must say to you that I respect the office of the President of the United States, but I want to go much further than that and say to all of you, my dear friends, that I respect this particular President of the United States for the manner in which he conducts himself, and the First Lady--the pride and the dignity which she so obviously has in maintaining the role that is so unique in American society and culture and political life--and to the President, who is a scholar in the affairs of this Nation and the foreign affairs of this country, who is as disciplined a man as I have ever known, mentally and physically. He is trim and slender and boyish looking. You wouldn't think he was older than I, would you?
But part of it, at least, is because he is physically disciplined, but more importantly, he is mentally disciplined. He understands the role of the President of the United States. He understands the role that this Nation plays among the nations of the world in conducting its foreign affairs, the foreign policy of this country. He disciplines his time among the many duties that he has as head of government, head of state, as head of party, and he allocates to each of those grave responsibilities and great responsibilities the time which he feels he can devote to them without sacrificing the more responsible task that the President of the United States has.
I think, above all else, he studies the difficulties that he has. He has the ability and the intelligence to perceive those problems. He has the tenacity and the perseverance to seek a solution to them, but above all else, he has the courage to do what he believes to be right in the interest of this Nation.
At this point, Nellie, would you join me here, and we are going to ask all our friends to join us in a toast to the President of the United States and Mrs. Nixon.
You know, I don't know how the press is going to particularly handle this gathering, but I am going to find out, and I trust their judgment, at times, but you know, it is a social occasion, I suppose, by any standards, and it was designed to be such, but I always try to put myself in the position of other people, on an occasion of this kind, and Nellie and I are grateful that we were hosts and got to sit at this head table up here, if this is a head table, we got to sit with President and Mrs. Nixon at any event, and the distinguished former mayor of Dallas, Mayor [J. Eric] Jonsson, and his lovely wife, Margaret, and the former mayor of San Antonio and his lovely wife, Mayor and Mrs. W. W. McAllister, and if you think this is just a party of "ex's," you couldn't be more wrong.
I never learned much in politics, but I always learned that you had to fish with live bait, and we are not without some in this gathering this evening. But be that as it may, I try to put myself in other people's positions.
We have been here, we have sat, we had an occasion to talk with Mrs. Nixon and the President. We heard him early this afternoon, on the ride, talk about some problems of this country, and some of his ideas about those problems that range all the way from foreign affairs, the war in Vietnam, the forthcoming trip to Russia, ITT, and busing, and a few other things in between. I think I know something about those views, but those of you sitting at these other tables have not been privileged to talk to them in that light or in that vein to discuss these matters, and it has been my privilege to have the opportunity to do that.
Frankly, I guess it is just an old political instinct of mine that when you have a fellow kind of at your mercy, you never let him get away without trying to prevail on him if you can. And during dinner I did mention to the President that I thought this particular gathering would be profoundly interested in some of his views about some of the problems that this country has and that this world has. And if you would be, I think we can prevail on him to frankly respond to some of your questions if you would like it.
Mr. President, they talk about the ivory towers of the White House, but I assure you that they are not so high nor the walls so thick that the call of applause cannot permeate them, and I know that a man with a political instinct such as you have is always willing to respond to such acceptance. Need I say more?
Ladies and gentlemen, for what remarks he would like to make, and what questions he would like to respond to, the President of the United States.
Will you please be seated for just a moment, because before I turn the microphone over to him, I again want to ask your indulgence to afford me another very great privilege.
I know what a wonderful woman can do to a man's life. No one knows that better than I, unless it is Richard Nixon. So I want the rare privilege--because, hopefully not, but perhaps the only time I will ever have the opportunity on this ranch and on this soil that Nellie and I love so much--to present to you a marvelous woman, a lovely lady, a real First Lady of America, Mrs. Richard Nixon.
Richard Nixon, Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Guests Following a Dinner at Secretary Connally's Ranch in Floresville, Texas. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/254726