Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Remarks at the Republican National Committee Breakfast, Chicago, Illinois

July 27, 1960

My friends of the Republican Party:

Any man who is compelled, and who, as a matter of duty and because of circumstances of his office, to face constantly these microphones gets a little bit weary of his own voice.

This morning I had a little incident that made me even a little more discouraged with my efforts to limit my appearances before these devilish mechanisms. I was getting up and, as you know, it was rather late when we all got to bed last night; but my faithful helper, sure that I would want to hear something on television surprised me when, by turning around, I found myself talking to myself about things in the speech last night.

It did seem a little bit too much.

Now, the first thing I should like to do is to mention the great compliment paid to me by Governor Stratton and the people of Illinois in presenting me with this bust of Lincoln. I might tell you that for eight-for seven and a half long years--there have always been in my office four prints. All of us certainly know who they are; four men I admire extravagantly. They are Benjamin franklin, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and General Lee. I cannot think of any four men whose histories and whose records could do more to inspire anyone to try to do his best.

You people have got a very tough job--I do not know whether it is finished yet or not--and that is: getting up the platform. Now, this is not / merely a matter of composing differing views among able and dedicated people; in addition they have got this in the background: I am still President of the United States for six months.

You cannot obviously put out a platform that tells exactly what Republicans are going to do in the future until there is some effort to make sure that that is exactly what I am going to do.

I just give this as one of their complicating factors. I have no advice for them. As a matter of fact, from all the things I have heard, they have certainly got into a state of composition that does no violence to my beliefs. But it does make a three-cornered, rather than merely a bilateral, sort of argument.

You know, as an aside, I want to make one remark to you people who, if you stop to think, would have known this anyway. It is this: foreign affairs is today the greatest preoccupation of all people in positions of political responsibility, for a very simple reason. foreign affairs and our relations with others affect every other problem we have. It involves our taxes, our inner feelings of confidence or apprehension. It affects our trade.

We have, right now, in the Cabinet a committee that, among other things, has the job of trying to promote more foreign trade. Very naturally the State Department has to be in this, because the relations of our countries, one to the other, is always involved.

But now here is a point: there is practically no such thing as a bilateral arrangement between two nations--just as your platform makers have to take me into account in a small way, so does every diplomatic interchange--let us say between Arabia and the United States or Britain and the United States or Japan and the United States--such negotiations always affect other nations.

And this is the thing that makes it so difficult to get these nice, clean-cut decisions that so many of our experts--who are not carrying responsibilities as some of us do--can develop.

Just as all international trade is almost invariably a multi-lateral affair, when we develop our food-for-peace plan we have to think how it affects Canada, Australia, the Argentine, and any other wheat or surplus-wheat producing country, or any country, that produces the same surplus as we do.

This is a serious matter.

So it is not merely a matter of saying we have 10 bushel of wheat we would like to get rid of--of course that has to have an exponent on that 10. If we do it in unwise ways, we damage very fine friends who want to stay in the very same corner we are, fighting and working for the freedom of men and the independence of their own countries--and the safety of their own countries.

So I think the tenor of my little simple message this morning is this: in human affairs there is no such thing--in vast organisms, at least--as nice clean-cut "two and two is four" and set it aside and forget it. These are matters of judgment, of long study, of--let us say--experienced conclusions and, finally, readiness to make the particular decision, no matter even if it might be only the least harmful of three or four that are possible.

And that is the one reason that I was delighted that your Chairman introduced to you this morning some of the men who have been my close associates over these years. They, with Republican leaders of the Congress, have met with me during different weekly meetings, and their conclusions, their analyses of problems, and their recommendations are made not lightly, but through the study in midnight hours and with a lot of oil burned in the lamps, in order that they may bring out something that they believe is the best for the United States.

And then, of course, something that I shall approve.

And I want to say this about them: after all, they are all men of my selection. I am not going to admit that I made too many mistakes in naming them. And I cannot remember more than two or three occasions when, with the overwhelming majority of my advisers saying, "Do this," that I have felt it necessary to "do that." And when I so did decide, I have never had a single one of that Cabinet show any inclination to go counter to that decision.

What I am saying here is we have had a group of the ablest and most loyal men I know in America, and people who realize this one great truth: in the operation of any great human organism, constructive plans and programs must be developed in what we call the great middle road.

I always liken, in my own mind, the people marching forward into tomorrow as occupying a great road. Most of them instinctively grow to like the broad highway stretching before them and they understand here is where human progress is achieved. Those that insist on marching in the gutters in the extremes of the right and the left are, in the long run, always defeated. People instinctively think of themselves--and now I am excluding from this the moral field--you cannot, of course, use a lie, then a smaller lie and believe that such a process brings you to the truth. That doesn't work. I am talking about the practical affairs of getting humans in great numbers to work together. You must find the broad highway and you must ignore the gutters.

Fortunately, in our party, I find few if any people are in the gutters. We Republicans have a broad spectrum of thinking. Unfortunately, politics is too often described as a conservative against a liberal, or the right against the left. But just as all America comprehends people, good sound citizens who want to go ahead and do not feel they should insist upon getting into the extremes of action--so does the Republican Party.

Now, I think that all of us should hold this one truth in mind: every Republican, everybody he reaches, every independent, every discerning Democrat should be appealed to on the basis that we are truly a middle-of-the-road party and by that I don't mean just walking a wishy-washy path between right and wrong, not at all. The middle road is a kind of path that is always difficult to defend, or at least requires intelligent explanation to defend, because you get your attacks from both flanks. And no commander going into battle of any kind likes to be compelled to fight on both flanks as he is trying to go forward, but that is exactly what a middle-of-the-roader has to do. But because so many people want to go exactly in that direction we have a tremendous strength in our party, and we must make it our business to explain what we mean by middle-of-the-road government.

This is the courageous, the constructive path that all of us must take. We are deeply unified in our support of basic principles: our belief in stability in our financial structure, in our determination we must have fiscal responsibility, in our determination not to establish and operate a paternalistic sort of government where a man's initiative is almost taken away from him by force.

Only in the last few weeks, I have been reading quite an article on the experiment of almost complete paternalism in a friendly European country. This country has a tremendous record for socialistic operation, following a socialistic philosophy, and the record shows that their rate of suicide has gone up almost unbelievably and I think they were almost the lowest nation in the world for that. Now, they have more than twice our rate. Drunkenness has gone up. Lack of ambition is discernible on all sides.. Therefore, with that kind of example, let's always remember Lincoln's admonition. Let's do in the federal Government only those things that people themselves cannot do at all, or cannot so well do in their individual capacities.

Now, my friends, I know that these words have been repeated to you time and time again until you're tired of them. But I ask you only this, to contemplate them and remember this--Lincoln added another sentence to that statement. He said that in all those things where the individual can solve his own problems the Government ought not to interfere, for all are domestic affairs and this comprehends the things that the individual is normally concerned with, because foreign affairs does belong to the President by the Constitution--and they are things that really require constant governmental action. But for the citizen himself, this is still to my mind the true, fine way of defining the "middle of the road." I would like us to make it not just a casual explanation of what we want to do. We ought to have it as a flaming battle flag at the highest mast that the Republican Party can put up, and fight for it always, because this is the way to make this great truth of Lincoln's popular, understood, and followed.

Thank you very much.

May I add: in the home state of Governor Stratton, and because both a Governor and a Senator are up for election this year, I want to give my moral support and every kind of influence that I can honorably give in favor of Governor Stratton and Mr. Witwer, who are to be elected along with their congressional colleagues. I wanted to get that plug in.

Thank you again.

Note: The President spoke at the Morrison Hotel in Chicago.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Remarks at the Republican National Committee Breakfast, Chicago, Illinois Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/235112

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