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Remarks at a Question-and-Answer Session for Northwest Editors, Publishers, and Broadcast Executives Attending a Briefing on Domestic Policy in Portland, Oregon

September 25, 1971


THE PRESIDENT. [1.] Ladies and gentlemen, I have just finished a meeting with Mr. Bridges and Mr. Flynn,1 along with Mr. Counts of the Mediation Service and the Secretary of Labor and Mr. Shultz. That meeting was for the purpose of my bringing to their attention the urgency of reaching a settlement of the dock strike

1 Harry Bridges, president, International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union; and Edmund J. Flynn, president, Pacific Maritime Association.

I pointed out what is actually the fact: that not only is there great interest in that strike on the west coast, but that, for example, when I stopped in Montana today, the primary subject of interest, as I went down the fence and shook hands with people, among the farmers there--"What can you do about the dock strike?"

I indicated that the national interest was very deeply involved, that many people were being hurt, not just big business but small farmers as well as large farmers, and that I considered it imperative that management and labor work with a new sense of urgency toward a settlement.

After the meeting was concluded, the two agreed that they would begin again their discussions on Monday morning at 9 o'clock, that they would have in mind the sense of urgency that I had tried to communicate to them, and that they would set, as a goal, reaching a settlement by the end of next week.

I say they said they would set that as a goal. They also pointed out that they were still far apart on some issues. I will simply close my comments with regard to the dock strike by saying that in this particular area, as you have already been informed in the media briefing this morning, I understand, we have made recommendations to the Congress for new legislation dealing with transportation generally.

I think what has happened in this dispute, coupled with what happened in the railroad dispute, indicates the urgency for consideration of that legislation, because the country cannot continue to afford stoppages in these key areas which do not reach, in the case of the dock strike, at times, the requirements for imposition of Taft-Hartley--although Taft-Hartley is a possibility here if the situation goes on-but which nevertheless cause very great injury to many people in our society.

Now, having said all these things, I can only add that I am convinced that the two men that I met with recognize the sense of urgency; that they are going to negotiate as well as they possibly can; that they have to, of course, represent their principals and convince them in the process.

I trust that the Presidential intervention at least will help them in conveying to their principals, the ones that they represent, the need to reach a hasty settlement for the strike.

Now, I understand that during the course of the day you have had rather long sessions on domestic policy, and have asked a great number of questions. Normally on these media briefings I have wound them up by talking on the same subject and trying to summarize the views that I understand have been touched upon by various speakers earlier.

Today, since you have had such a long session, it has occurred to me that in view of the fact that I am on my way, as you know, for a meeting with the Emperor of Japan in Alaska, the first meeting in history with the President of .the United States and the Emperor of Japan participating, that it might be of greater interest and value to the members of the press that are here if I would have questions from you on any subject that you like.

You can cover, of course, the subjects that have been touched upon in the briefing. I will be glad to respond to those in the event you would like additional information on those subjects, but I will be glad to also take questions in the foreign policy field or other areas of interest to the extent that our time permits.

So with that we will go to the questions. And if each of you--while we are not on television--maybe stand up, I think, so that I can recognize you, and speak up, please.



[2.] Q. What's happening in Red China?

THE PRESIDENT. It would be presumptuous for me to contend that we knew what was happening on the mainland of China at this time. I will only say, however, that whatever is happening, we are proceeding with the plans for the trip that I will be taking to the People's Republic of China.

Those plans will be announced at an appropriate time, and in that context you can surmise anything you want as to what is happening.


[3.] Q. Mr. President, you said in Detroit you would meet with the leader of Red China. Do you expect that to be Mac Tse-tung?

THE PRESIDENT. In any meeting that occurs with a leader of a Communist country, a meeting must occur not only with the head of government, which in this case, of course, would be Chou En-lai, the Premier, but it must also occur with the Chairman of the Communist Party in that country.

Putting it in another context, if a meeting were to be held in the Soviet Union, the meeting would be between the President of the United States and Mr. Kosygin, and also a meeting between the President of the United States and Mr. Brezhnev.

Now, as far as the meetings in China are concerned, they will be announced, and those who participate in them, at an appropriate time. It would be naturally assumed that when the trip is planned, that a meeting would be planned, a meeting or meetings, with the head of government and with the Chairman of the Communist Party of the People's Republic.


[4.] Q. Mr. President, when you go to Alaska, are you going to make any statement on the Amchitka blast, or has that been determined or decided--the underground nuclear blast?

THE PRESIDENT. I noted the speculation to the effect that I might make a statement on the blast at that time. I have no plans to make an announcement at that time. As you know, the various factors involved are under study, and a decision will be made soon, but the decision will not be announced before or at the time of my visit to Anchorage.


[5.] Q. Mr. President, may we return again to the question of the dock strike?

THE PRESIDENT. Certainly, anything you like.

Q. May we feel here that you came away from the meeting encouraged?

THE PRESIDENT. I am sure it would not give away any confidence if I were to report to this group that as we concluded our meeting, I said to Mr. Bridges and to Mr. Flynn, "Can I go and tell the members of the press that I am encouraged by this meeting?"

Mr. Bridges, who is quite a skilled negotiator, and I have known him for over 20 years, said, "Well, Mr. President, you might say you were encouraged and then be disappointed."

But he then did say, as did Mr. Flynn, that they would meet again with a new sense of urgency and that they would set as a goal reaching a settlement by the end of next week. I can only say that I believe that my meeting with them in Portland could well help to get it off dead center. One can never be sure, because of the differences that are involved.

Q. How long would the strike have to go on before you would invoke Taft-Hartley?

THE PRESIDENT. I am somewhat knowledgeable in this field, because you may remember I was a member of the labor committee of the House when we wrote Taft-Hartley. I am, therefore, familiar with all of the legal limitations, as well as the possibilities, in applying the act.

The problem, of course, is -whether or not it has national implications in terms of health and safety. At this point a case could be made, on a narrow basis, that Taft-Hartley might be applied, but at this point, also, I would have to say that most of the legal experts in the field believe that there would be a very good chance that a court would not uphold the use of Taft-Hartley.

Having said that, let us suppose that, as some have indicated, that we will be confronted very soon with an Eastern longshore strike. If you have an Eastern longshore strike and a Western longshore strike still continuing, Taft-Hartley automatically is going to be applied, because then the damage is very great.

Second, if this strike goes on for a period of time and I determine that the parties simply aren't going to get together, then we have to step in and use Taft-Hartley and take the risk that the courts may not uphold it.

I emphasize again, though, that your question points up the weakness in the present law. The railway legislation is obsolete in this country. We found that out in trying to negotiate a labor settlement.

Taft-Hartley, in terms of its ability to handle a dispute of this type, which affects great numbers of people far beyond the number of workers involved in the dispute--Taft-Hartley is simply not adequate, and that is why we, almost 2 years ago, recommended to the Congress new legislation covering the whole field of transportation. And I think that one thing this strike has done--together with the railroad strike and the possibility of a strike of the longshoremen on the east coast--is to give added urgency to the need for Congressional action.

The Congress has not even held a hearing on that matter yet. I understand the Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee of the House may now begin to hold some hearings.


[6.] Q. Mr. President, we heard that there is some criticism from the Seattle-Puget Sound area that you are not stopping there in the State of Washington. Can you give us any explanation of how you happened to pick Hanford as the place to visit?

THE PRESIDENT. First, I would say that it is very difficult to make all the stops we would like to make in any one of the States. When Senator Mansfield said, "Let's go to Kalispell," I said, "Fine." But then people from Billings and Bozeman and Butte said, "Why didn't you come to our towns?"

Here, of course, it is expected that Portland, being the news center that it is, would be the logical place to go, but I could imagine that Eugene and a few other places might say, "Why not there?"

Actually, in this case, I welcome that we are going to Hanford, because it is the center for a significant announcement that we are going to make in the nuclear area, and it is an area where there is great interest statewide in what future programs will be.

The Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Dr. Schlesinger, is coming there for the purpose of participating in the briefing. And I believe that what is good for Hanford is good for the whole State of Washington.

I would add, finally, this is not the last trip I will make to the Pacific Northwest, I trust, while I am in office, and certainly I would hope to visit Seattle on another occasion.


[7.] Q. A great number of American Indian leaders, while still expressing satisfaction with your announced Indian policy last year, are extremely upset with the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs], and I know Chairman MacDonald of the Navajo tribe was in Washington last week to present the idea that the BIA should be moved from the Interior Department to direct jurisdiction of the White House. Would you comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, frankly, I have not been satisfied with the BIA, and I don't think the Secretary of the Interior is. As a matter of fact, we have been discussing this matter with various Indian leaders for some time. As the Secretary of the Interior--I don't know whether he responded to this question himself---may have told you--maybe he felt that he did not have the right to--I have told him that we should look at the whole bureaucracy with regard to our handling of Indian affairs and shake it up, and shake it up good.

That is what he is doing at this point.

So to answer your question: We are not satisfied. We are working on the problem, and we hope to do better. Frankly, when you look at how we have handled the Indian problem over the history of this country, it is a disgrace. And much of it is due to the fact that the bureaucracy feeds on itself, defends itself, fights for the status quo, and does very little, in my opinion, for progress in the field.

That doesn't mean there are not some good people in the Indian affairs department. It just means that bureaucracy itself has not been effective in this area.


[8.] Q. Mr. President, you noted the concern in Montana over the dock strike. Does that concern in Montana from the farmers have any bearing on what you told the strike principals here this afternoon?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, it certainly does. It was only coincidental, the fact that, out in Montana, that farmers there, and, as a matter of fact, Senator Mansfield, who is a very powerful leader, the Democratic leader of the Senate--that they hit that issue very hard with me was a very persuasive item for inc to mention to Mr. Bridges and to Mr. Flynn. So, it did have a very good influence on this meeting.


[9.] Q. Mr. President, have you seen any need for any change in your consultative practices with respect to the Senate on the appointment of successors to the Supreme Court?

THE PRESIDENT. Consultation with the Senate with regard to appointments of judges to the Supreme Court has been a problem that has afflicted many Presidents, as you know. I have it as well. That responsibility, however, is, in my case, properly left with the Attorney General. The Attorney General is having broadbased consultations, particularly with the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, with regard to these appointments.

We are anxious, one, that the appointments be made as soon as we can find qualified people that I can nominate; two, that those appointments will be ones that the Senate will approve quickly. Now, the reason for their approving them quickly and for me to nominate quickly is that we are going into the fall term two judges short, and some very important matters will be coming before that Court. So, I think our consultative procedure is better this time than it has been before. I would hope that the Senate would act as quickly on these two appointments as it did with the confirmation of the Chief Justice, Mr. Burger, and Mr. Blackmun; if so, they will do well.


[10.] Q. Mr. President, can you discuss some of the alternatives under consideration about the machinery for controls under Phase 2?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I could discuss it, but it would be premature to do so. I think I can best answer the question by saying that by the 30th of September all of the various recommendations with regard to machinery from government, from labor, from business, from Congress, et cetera, will be in, and then I will make the decision, and it will be announced well in advance of the 30 days before the freeze ends.

I can only reiterate what I have said previously. In order to be effective there must be a Government role. The wage and price restraints that follow the freeze across the board will depend primarily upon voluntary action on the part of both labor and management and depend also to a great extent upon public support.

There must be, in addition to that in order for it to be effective with recalcitrants-there must be the possibility of Government action to back up what our private or public exhortations may be.

I realize that is a general answer, but for me to, at this time, indicate the direction of our thinking, I think might compromise our ability to make the right decision with all the options in front of us.


[11.] Mr. President, referring to the Supreme Court appointments, the AP quotes Mrs. Nixon this morning as saying, "The trouble is, the best qualified women are too old." Do you share her thinking, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. As Secretary' Morton knows, any politician that say's a woman is too old is nuts.

Could I just add one thing to this, because somebody may feel that I don't want to comment more on the qualifications for the Supreme Court judge. First the two Justices that I will appoint, as I indicated in Detroit, will be men, or individuals [laughter], who first--and this is the most important qualification--share the general judicial philosophy and approach of the two men on the Court whom I previously have appointed. That gives you an indication of my direction. That is the most important qualification, in addition, of course, to the basic qualification that the man must be one who is schooled in the law and particularly in constitutional law.

I should also point out that that means that the individual can come from any section of the country. It means that he can come from a court. He can come from the bar, be a practicing lawyer. He can come from a law school. He can be, for example, a law professor, as was Mr. Justice Frankfurter, or he can come from the Congress or the Senate, provided his specialty in the Congress and the Senate has given him the equivalent of experience in the legal field that either active practice of the law or serving on a court or teaching law would give.

So, you see, I will not rule out, as some want me to do, anybody who has not served on the circuit court of appeals. My other two appointees, that I just mentioned, both had served on the circuit court of appeals, and the appointments may be from the circuit court of appeals. But I am not limiting it to that because here we have to go for the best qualified people who have the judicial philosophy that I think is needed in the Court today.

And even an old woman could have that philosophy!


[12.] Q. Mr. President, in view of the report on comparative missile capabilities on the reduction of our armed forces, both as to Army and fleets, do you care to comment, sir, on our present or future defensive capability at this time?

THE PRESIDENT. This is Ferd Mendenhall? 2

2 Ferdinand Mendenhall, editor, Valley News and Green Sheet, Van Nuys, Calif.

Q. Yes.

THE PRESIDENT. I thought so. There are no old men, incidentally, either. [Laughter] I have known Ferd Mendenhall for 20 years, too.

Let's look at that relative balance between the Soviet Union and the United States. There is a tendency to point out that because the Soviet Union has been moving ahead during the past 10 years, at a time when the United States has been somewhat limited to the numbers--as far, at least, as the number of missiles are concerned-that we had back in 1962, that because of that fact that the United States has become already inferior.

Now, I would answer your question by saying, first, that what the Soviet Union needs to have a sufficient military establishment to carry out its foreign policy is different from what the United States needs. The Soviet Union is primarily a land power, and it needs, therefore, a different mix than we have.

The United States is a combination of a land and a sea power. Consequently, whereas the United States must have, in order to have an effective foreign policy to meet our needs around the world, superiority on the sea, what the United States may need in terms of divisions on land may be much less as compared with what the Soviet Union would have to have.

So, when somebody says the Soviet Union has three or four or five times as many divisions as the United States has, that doesn't mean that what they have makes them, therefore, automatically superior.

I would say at this point that in terms of strategic missiles, there is basically a balance between the United States and the Soviet Union and that neither power at this time is going to be able to gain a clear enough superiority that either would launch a preemptive attack upon the other.

That is the reason why the possibilities of success in the SALT talks, the strategic arms limitation talks, are, in my opinion, good. I think an announcement was made this morning that a significant step has already been taken with regard to accidental war and a more improved hot line3 That took a lot of negotiating, but it is important and it will be signed next week in Washington when Mr. Gromyko is here.

3A White House announcement of approval of two agreements that had been negotiated with the Soviet Union at the strategic arms limitation talks was released September 24, 1971, and is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 7, P. 1318).

That also is an indication that progress is being made on limitations of offensive and defensive weapons, which I announced on May 20--and at the same time it was announced in Moscow--would be the goal for this year.

Now, whether we achieve it by the end of this year, no one can say at this point. We have made progress. And I believe the goal will be achieved. I believe that we will reach an agreement, and the reason we will reach an agreement is this fundamental point that I make: Neither power at this time could, if it wanted to, gain that superiority which would enable it to, frankly, blackmail the other one.


[13.] Q. Mr. President, Senator Jackson, on the floor of the Senate, stated that the imbalance in the Middle East, as far as military weapons are concerned, is widening to the detriment of Israel. He suggested that there be immediate implementation of at least $500 million worth of jets and other weaponry. Does the Administration support this thinking, or are there facts different from what Senator Jackson suggests?

THE PRESIDENT. Let me respond to the question not simply in terms of Senator Jackson's recommendations, and I have great respect for him in this field because he is an expert, but in terms of what the policy of the Administration is. First, we support the truce.

Second, it would not be in the interest of either Israel or the U.A.R. to break that truce. I think that we, therefore, have a pretty good idea that the truce may be maintained.

But third, however, neither side should assume, neither Israel nor the U.A.R., that the truce can go on indefinitely, because unless there is progress made toward a permanent settlement, there is inevitably going to develop an imbalance from one side to the other.

Now, having stated those general propositions, let me state the position of the United States toward Israel. I have stated over and over again that the United States will do what is necessary to see that the balance of power in the region is not altered. That commitment we have kept in the past; that commitment we will keep in the future with regard to Israel. Israel knows it, and Israel's neighbors know it.

But, on the other hand, while at the same time we keep the commitment, and we will keep it in this general context of seeing that the balance does not shift-and we watch it closely week by week, I can assure you--at the same time we are, of course, trying to influence the negotiations along the line of pointing up that simply maintaining the balance of power is not a policy that can survive; it is not viable because in the end it will blow, and that is why we are pushing for a permanent settlement.


[14.] Q. Premier Kosygin will be in Canada next month. There is some talk that he will go on down to New York during that same trip. Is it possible that you will meet with him on that occasion?

THE PRESIDENT. I do have plans to meet with Mr. Gromyko next week, the Soviet Foreign Minister, but I have no plans to meet with Mr. Kosygin on his visit to the United States, if he makes such a visit, and I think that is still in a speculative position.


[15.] Q. Mr. President, will the posture of the unopposed ballot in Vietnam have any effect on your winding down the war? Will it speed it up at all?

THE PRESIDENT. With regard to the unopposed ballot, we, as I have stated on other occasions, would prefer that Vietnam could have an election in which there was a contest. We, of course, noted with approval the fact that the parliamentary elections were very, very vigorously contested, and that over one-third of the Parliament in the National Assembly were elected in what most observers agreed was a very fair, impartial election. Over one-third of them were members of the parties opposing President Thieu, which indicates there was a very active opposition.

It is also to be noted that in the Senate of South Vietnam there is a very active opposition which is able to assert itself. We, however, cannot get people to run for office unless they are willing to run, and tinder these circumstances, therefore, the problem which confronts us is whether, because South Vietnam has elections but has not yet had elections which we consider to be satisfactory in terms of our standards, whether under those circumstances we, in effect, throw up our hands and say that it makes no difference what happens, let the Communists take it over.

The choice, quite frankly, is not between a South Vietnam and perfect elections, or elections meeting our standard, but the choice is between South Vietnam and no elections, which is what would be the case if the Communists were to come in.

So, as far as our plan is concerned, I would simply summarize it this way: Our plan for ending the American involvement in Vietnam is proceeding. I will have another announcement to make in November with regard to that plan. It is significant to note that over 300,000 Americans have come out of Vietnam. It is significant to note that as far as our casualties are concerned, the casualties for the entire summer were not as great as they were each week when we came into office in 1968--and they will continue to go down.

Our goal of ending the American involvement, of preventing a Communist takeover, of obtaining the return of our POW's, can be attained, in my opinion, and will be attained, and the complete American withdrawal, consistent with that goal, will occur.

In the event, however, that as a result of a change of policy, a change of policy that might be brought upon the Administration by Congressional action--I don't anticipate this, but it has been speculated about--we move more precipitately, everything that we have fought for in Vietnam could be lost.

So, I would simply say that we feel that our policy of ending American involvement in a way that would prevent a Communist takeover and give the people of South Vietnam a chance to develop a democratic system which more closely meets our standards--that goal can be reached.

I would also point this out: I know many Americans are concerned about the failure of other countries that we aid around the world, people like the people of South Vietnam, to move as swiftly as we think they should toward the democratic society that we have here or that the British have, for example.

I note, for example, a very well-intentioned resolution that some Congressmen have put in, saying we should cut off aid to South Vietnam unless they have a leader elected in a contested, democratic election. Let me say that if we adopted that procedure and that policy, the United States would have to cut off aid to 61 countries in the world today that we are giving it to, because only 30 of the 91 countries to which we give aid have leaders that were elected in a contested election.

That doesn't mean that we like it that way, but it does mean that the road toward democracy and contested elections is a long and hard one. But the main thing is to be on the road and give people a chance to have it that way, rather than to let those people end up on the kind of a road where there is no election and no hope of one in the future, which is the case in North Vietnam.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. We are out of time. It is 5:03. Thank you, gentlemen.

Note: The session began at 4:30 p.m. in the Mayfair Room at the Benson Hotel.

Participants in the briefing represented the States of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at a Question-and-Answer Session for Northwest Editors, Publishers, and Broadcast Executives Attending a Briefing on Domestic Policy in Portland, Oregon Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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