Richard Nixon photo

Remarks of the Vice President, Al Lang Field, St. Petersburg, FL

October 18, 1960

Congressman Cramer, all the distinguished guests here on the platform, and this great audience here in St. Petersburg, at Al Lang Field: I want you to know the reception we had today in Tampa, the motorcade through the city of St. Petersburg, and now this record audience here at the ball park can mean only one thing: that this county is going to be bigger and better for our ticket in 1960, and this county will furnish the margin for carrying the State of Florida in 1960 for our ticket.

It certainly, I can assure you, is a most inspiring occasion for Pat, my wife, and me to be here to see some of you who have taken the time and trouble to come out to hear us. I remember, as a matter of fact, Bill, when we were here in 1956, we brought a little California rain with us, but tonight it's Florida weather, and we're grateful for that, too.

This is particularly a special occasion for us because, as you know, the election will be 3 weeks from today. Consequently, this is a tremendously important 3 weeks, because this is the period that the election is usually decided.

And I want to tell all of you here today that I am immensely proud of those running on the Republican ticket on this platform with me, Bill Cramer, who has been my friend and associate in the House of Representatives. I give them all the support that I can, and I ask your support for them.

And I say to you that here in this county you have started something, something that will be good for this district, something that will be good for the State of Florida, for the whole South and for America.

You have shown that it is possible to have a two-party system, and what you do will change the whole character for politics for the good in Florida and in the South, and we ask you to continue to work for a two-party system in this State.

I'm sure that the many Democrats who are here would agree with what I have said, because I have found in campaigning through some States of the South, the sentiment on the part of Democrats, as well as Republicans, is that it is essential that the people have a choice, and here you do have a choice, and we intend to see that you continue to have a choice in the years ahead, with your assistance.

Now, if I could turn to some of the great issues that confront us in this campaign, one of the problems of a candidate is always to select those issues of greatest concern and of greatest interest to the people who come out and listen to him, but I have found in traveling throughout America - and this is the 47th State I have visited - I have only 3 to go to make 50 States, a record for a presidential candidate - I have found that there is one issue that transcends all the rest. I have found that there is one issue that people are concerned about above all the rest, and that is the issue of the survival of this country.

Everybody knows that we are in a great conflict today, a conflict between the forces of freedom on the one side, and the forces of tyranny on the other. Everyone knows, too, that the major responsibility of the next President of the United States, in addition to the many other responsibilities that he will have, will be to see that a great offensive is mounted to win that conflict, to win it without war, or, putting it another way, the major test that you must apply to me and to my colleague, Cabot Lodge, and to our opponents, is this: Which of the two teams can best provide the leadership that America and the free world needs to keep the peace, but keep it without surrender and to extend freedom throughout the world?

Now, I'm sure that all of you agree with my assumption that that is the great issue, because all of us realize that the solutions that we may find to every other problem will mean nothing at all unless we're around to enjoy it. And so I want to talk to that issue tonight. I talked to it a little earlier today at the American Legion convention down in Miami, but that was a nonpolitical talk. Tonight we're going to take the gloves off and talk a little politics.

At the American Legion, my opponent found everything wrong with the policies of this administration in the field of foreign policy for the last 8 years. He found that we were running down. He found that our prestige was reaching an all-time low. He found that our defenses were drifting away. He found that the only thing that would cure America of its ills, of course, was to elect him President of the United States.

Now, just let me say this, with regard to the record of this administration: Obviously, any administration will make mistakes, and particularly when we deal with the great problem of Communist aggression in the world. We can be sure they're going to cause us trouble, and we will be sure that the seas that we sail will not always be smooth, but the question is how you handle the trouble. The question is how you see it through.

And, as I look over the record of the Eisenhower administration, and as I compare it with the record of the Truman administration, I say the people want to go forward and not back to what we left in 1953.

And to my opponent who said, "America has been retreating for the last 8 years, to say that we have been losing the battle for peace without surrender for the last 8 years, I ask him to say what happened in the Truman years; 600 million people lost to communism. A war in Korea. What happened in the Eisenhower years? Well, we got the United States out of one war; we've kept her out of others, and we do have peace without surrender today.

Now, what about all this talk about America's weakness, its military weakness, its economic weakness and the like?

Just let me say this: America is the strongest nation in the world, and Mr. Khrushchev knows it, and we will continue to be the strongest nation in the world, but we aren't going to continue to be if we think of ourselves as being a second-rate country - and we certainly must not do that. And, as far as the criticisms are concerned, I think they were pretty well summed up when my opponent was speaking in New York a few days ago. I'll quote him exactly, without notes, incidentally. This is what he said: He said, "I'm tired of reading in the paper what Mr. Khrushchev is doing. I'm tired of reading in the paper what Mr. Castro is doing. I want to be able to read in the paper what the President of the United States is doing."

Our answer, and my answer, to him is this: If he'd stop talking and start reading, he'd find out what President Eisenhower has been doing. Now, he hasn't been doing some of the things that my opponent has suggested. He didn't apologize or express regrets to Khrushchev for defending the United States against surprise attack. He didn't make the error back in 1955, which my opponent and 11 other Senators, well intentioned, but wooly in their thinking on this subject, wanted him to make, and that was to abandon an area of freedom, to draw a line and, in effect, to surrender it at a gun point to the Communists, and, as a result of that firm policy, we have found that the Communists have not advanced in that area and otherwise they surely would have.

And it's true he hasn't been doing some of the things Mr. Khrushchev has been doing. President Eisenhower hasn't been making a fool of himself at the United Nations - and we should be thankful for that.

No, the President of the United States has been leading this country in a way that Americans are proud. He has led us firmly, but nonbelligerently. He has worked through the United Nations to help save the independence of the Congo, for example, rather than to do what Mr. Khrushchev has done, and that is to attempt to interfere unilaterally into the affairs of that country and take over its independence. All of these things have added up to this: they have added up to the fact that American prestige today stands high. It stands high in the world, and if we had any doubt about it, all you have to look at are the votes in the United Nations. You may remember one that took place on the Congo a few weeks ago. The Soviet Union was on one side. We were on the other side, and the U.S. position won 70 to 0. Well, that's pretty good in any kind of sports, but it's very good in international relations, and it's the answer to those who say that our prestige is falling.

And so I say to our opponents: We welcome the comparison in the field of foreign policy with their record and ours. We welcome it at any time, and if they're going to talk about our record, we're going to talk about theirs, and we're going to set them straight every time they distort our record, as they have been doing it.

Now, let us turn to the qualifications of the candidates. What do you look to as far as Ambassador Lodge and I are concerned? You must, first, of course, look to our record, because we have sat in the high councils of this administration over the past 7½ years. We have had the opportunity of participating in the discussions leading to the great decisions on Lebanon, Quemoy, and Matsu. And, so, as far as this record is concerned, we are part of it; we must accept responsibility for it, and I, for one, am very proud of it; but, turning to the future, these things you also know about us: We both know Mr. Khrushchev. We know the Communists. We have sat opposite him at the conference table, and, knowing him, I think I can assure you that we will not be fooled by him, because we think we know how to handle him and how he reacts in tile world councils.

You see, it is so easy to make mistakes in dealing with the Communists, because they are always mistakes not of the heart, but of the head. They are mistakes that are made because people misjudge these men. They think they will react like the leaders of the free world. They think you can treat a man like Khrushchev as you would Mr. Macmillan, Mr. Adenauer, or Mr. De Gaulle, other men who are honorable in their dealings in international affairs. But look at this man. Let me describe him to you: ruthless, fanatical, determined to accomplish only one thing, and that is dominating the world for communism, willing to use any means, foul or fair, to accomplish that end.

When you have a man like that, then, there are certain things you must do if you want to keep peace, if you want to avoid surrender and if you want to have victory for freedom without war. The first thing we must do is to see that America continues to be the strongest nation in the world, and on that score I want to make it clear that no American can ever be satisfied with our level of strength. The world changes. Technological developments come along. The Soviet Union moves up its strength. Our responsibilities increase, and I want you to know that we must continue to build our strength and that American security and strength militarily must come before any budget considerations. We cannot have a dollar sign on what Americans will do to defend themselves against those who would destroy us and destroy our freedom with it.

And, so, you can be sure that my colleague and I, knowing our potential enemies, will keep America strong, stronger than any of those who threaten the peace of the world. We also will see that our diplomacy is firm, firm, as I indicated a moment ago, without being belligerent.

Why is it that I emphasize this? You've read about this recent discussion in the papers with regard to the two islands in the Pacific, Quemoy and Matsu, and I know that many people may well raise a question: Why all the hullabaloo about a couple of little islands out there? Only 50,000 people live on them. Why get concerned about them? Why not draw a line, as Senator Kennedy suggests, and draw a line which leaves them out of the perimeter of freedom?

And, my friends, I'll tell you why you can't do it. Because it never works with a dictator.

Let me give you a little history. When Hitler - you remember, it was Danzig and it was the Sudetenland, and it was Austria, and every time it was said, "Just a little more we will give him and that's all he will want." Where a dictator is concerned, a little never satisfied him. It only whets his appetite and he wants more.

And then the same mistake was repeated in Korea. You remember Mr. Acheson in January of 1950 drew a line, drew a line with Korea outside of it, and a lot of people probably drew a sigh of relief and said, "Now we are not going to have a war about Korea." But the Communists took him at his word and in they marched, and in we marched - 35,000 American boys dead as a result of a mistake made by diplomats - and I say we have learned our lesson, and we are not in to make the mistake of surrendering or abandoning an area of freedom and thereby encourage the very attack, the very war that we want to discourage by our firm position.

Then let us turn to another area of strength that we need. In addition to diplomatic strength and military strength, economy of this country must be strong. I particularly want to talk to that point today because if we are to win the struggle for freedom we can't just hold the line. We must wage a great offensive for freedom throughout the world, and this means an offensive without war, and this means an offensive for the minds and the hearts and the souls of men, economic in character, spiritual and moral as well.

Now, let's look at the economic factors for just a moment. We've been hearing that America has been standing still, and it's said we've got to change our economic policies so that America can get going again, so that we can cross some new frontiers. Well, my friends, just let me say this: Anybody who says America has been standing still during the Eisenhower years just hasn't been traveling around America. He's been traveling in some other country, I can tell you that, because - look at this area; look at the State of Florida the growth here in the last 8 years. I say that those who say America is standing still are making a fatal error. They are judging the growth of America by what government does rather than what people do, and it's people who make America great, not just simply what government does at the Federal or the State or the local level.

To those who say that America has been standing still, may I also have this rejoinder: We certainly don't want to go back to the policies we left in 1953 because, by every index you take, we have been moving in the last 7 years more than we moved in the previous 7 years. We built more schools, more hospitals, more jobs, higher wages, more increase in social security benefits and number covered. Any index you want to take, the American people have moved forward more under Eisenhower than they did under Truman.

And all that our opponent offers in this particular campaign is a retread of the Truman policies. Well, my friends, I say we don't want to go back to those policies. We had enough of them in 1953, and we're going to go forward and not backward today, because those policies, just as in the field of foreign policy, amount to a retreat from freedom. A retreat from the frontiers of freedom in foreign policy would have resulted if we had taken the Senator's advice on Quemoy and Matsu, or on the U-2 flights. And then in domestic policies what do we find? A retreat from freedom here. For example, a farm program so drastic that even Henry Wallace criticized it, found it was more severe than those imposed in many Communist countries - a further centralization of power in the Federal Government, shrinking the rights and the responsibilities of the States, huge new Federal spending programs. The result will be what? Higher taxes. Higher prices for the American people. No question about it. That's what the program will buy for you. A compulsory medical care program - and I will have more to say about that in a moment. A teachers' program, an education program, which differs from ours in this fundamental: It would take our teachers and put them directly under the Federal Government as far as subsidization of their salaries is concerned, and the net result of that would give the inevitable power to the Federal Government to tell our teachers what to teach - and we don't want that in Washington. We want that at the local level and not in Washington.

In monetary policies, in the other fields, we find this same obsession of rather than expanding freedom, as we would, of retreating from freedom - and I say the American people are not going to retreat from the frontiers of freedom abroad, and they are not going to engage in an attack on the frontiers of freedom at home.

Now, what is the alternative? I'll tell you what it is. Many people come to me and they say, "Mr. Nixon, how can you say that your programs in the field of education and housing and health and medical care, and the like, will produce greater progress than your opponent's will when he'll spend more money than you will?" And you know what the answer is? Whose money is he spending? It's not Jack's, but it's yours.

That's the case, and I say that the very fact that our programs will produce more progress and spend billions less is a reason to vote for them rather than against them.

Now, why is it that ours will do more and spend less? Because their answer to every problem in the economic area is what? It is to take the problem to Washington, to set up a huge new Federal program. They have no confidence or have little confidence in the States. They seem to have very little confidence in the individual. And, so, the result is, they say the way to progress is to start, in effect, with the Federal Government and work down to the people.

And you know what our answer is? Our answer is that the way to progress in this country is not to start with the Federal Government and work down to the people, but to start with the people and work up to the Federal Government. That's the way to progress.

Let's take one example, medical care for the aged, just to prove the point. They say the thing to do here is to set up a huge Federal program. They would compel everybody on social security, leaving out 3 million not covered and who need it the most, to have this coverage whether they want it or not - and they say that's the answer. What do we say? We say there's a better way. We say there is a way to handle this program through the States and the Federal Government, through a program in which individuals can buy private health insurance, if they want, rather than Government health insurance. In essence, we say that every individual over 65 who wants health insurance ought to be able to get it, and we have a program that will provide it. We say that every person over 65 who needs it should be encouraged to get it. But here's where we differ. We say that nobody who does not want self-insurance should be compelled to have it against his will. That's the American way to handle this problem.

In every area I could spell it out, but in summary what the solution is is this - that if we want progress, if we want to win this struggle for the world, we must move in the direction of more faith in freedom and free men rather than less. We must move in the direction of greater concentration on and dedication to our ideals rather than less because, my friends, that is what will decide the struggle for freedom. It will not be decided by people who have lost confidence in America, in her strength in her free institutions. It will be decided by people who know why America is great, who believe that America can continue to move forward through freedom and with freedom rather than controlling it and reducing it.

I can only say in that connection, that, having traveled to 54 countries abroad, I know from what I have seen on both sides of the Iron Curtain that we will win because the people of the world know that America stands for more than military might, more than economic might; that we stand for great ideals - for our faith in freedom, for our faith in God, for our belief in the dignity of all men, in their equality of opportunity.

These are the great ideals that caught the imagination of the world 180 years ago. These are the ideals for which America stands today, and these are the ideals with which we will win the struggle for the world.

It is to that cause that I ask you to dedicate yourselves. It is for that cause that Cabot Lodge and I ask for your support in this campaign. If you feel we are the ones who can lead America to victory for freedom without war, then we ask for your support and we hope we can be worthy of it in the years ahead.

Thank you.

Richard Nixon, Remarks of the Vice President, Al Lang Field, St. Petersburg, FL Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project