Richard Nixon photo

Remarks of the Vice President, Ford Auditorium, Detroit, MI

November 07, 1960

Thank you very much. Thank you, Bob Blackwell, and thank you here in this Ford Auditorium, for this wonderful welcome, to Pat, to me and, incidentally, for the first time in this campaign, my two daughters will hear me make a political speech. [Cheers and applause.] And it goes without saying that I welcome the opportunity to appear here in Detroit, to appear on television and radio with my colleagues who are candidates on our ticket here in the State of Michigan. There is much that I have said about them in my previous visits: I can only add this: At the national level Al Bentley and our candidates for Congress, George Meader and his colleagues, Bob Blackwell, are a splendid team. I support every one of them, and I urge you to vote for them on election day. [Cheers and applause.]

And as far as the State of Michigan is concerned, I will say again what I have said over and over again on my visits here: that there is no State in the Union that needs a change more than the State of Michigan, and Paul Bagwell will give it to you. [Cheers and applause.] He, with his responsibility, with his forwardlooking, progressive program, will give Michigan the kind of leadership that will bring to this State the new industry that it has not been getting because it has been discouraged by the kind of leadership you've had, and I will only say, as far as the national level is concerned, and I know everybody will understand what I say here, we don't want to bring to Washington the kind of leadership you've been having here in Michigan. [Cheers and applause.]

And, incidentally, we're not going to do it. I can tell you that. I have had the opportunity of now traveling to 50 States, the first candidate of either party in history to travel to 50 States, and in traveling to those 50 States - I just returned from Alaska this morning - I can tell you that in this last week a great tide is running in our direction. It's running our way, and we'll just keep it going. [Cheers and applause.]

And the reason the tide is running in our direction is not just because Republicans are voting more enthusiastically than ever before, but that Democrats as well recognize that. they need to put the country above party in this election of 1960 at the national level. [Cheers and applause.]

And, incidentally, this afternoon at a time I understand when this television program on which we are appearing will be running after this program, but this afternoon I am going to appear right here in Detroit on an unprecedented program, a 4-hour telethon for questions. My colleague, Cabot Lodge, will also be picked up for part of the program from Boston, and I want to say something to nail once and for all the hypocrisy of Los Angeles on the ticket. I'm always proud to appear with my colleague, any place - including Michigan - In the United States. [Cheers and applause.]

And for those who are truly interested in civil rights, certainly they know that they have on our side a team that has always voted that way, a team that believes that way, a team that campaigns that way, North, East, West, and South, and that will bring progress that way. Why take a chance on a team that has a split personality and that will not bring the progress and only bring you promises? [Cheers and applause.]

Now, on this last appearance of the campaign, the last formal speech of the campaign, right here in the city of Detroit, I think it is appropriate for me to discuss in the brief time that I have the most vital issue, the most important one.

People often say: Mr. Nixon, you've been to 50 States. How are people different? What are they thinking about? And the answer is that on one issue everybody believes the same. Everybody says that the most important issue above everything else is what kind of leadership we can have that will keep the peace without surrender and extend freedom throughout the world. [Cheers and applause.]

Why do people say this? Because they realize that in this great country of ours we can have progress, and we must and will; we can have jobs, and we must and will; we can have all the other things that make a good life, and it isn't going to make any difference if we have the nuclear disaster that would destroy civilization as we know it.

And, so, in these quiet hours when people are making up their minds, I urge you, the voters of Michigan - I urge you, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents - for a few moments to think with me not in terms of party, not in terms of any other collateral issue, not in terms of what labels we may wear, not in terms of organizations to which we may belong or you may belong, but in terms of America, in terms of peace, in terms of freedom. Judge us. Judge my colleague. Judge me. Judge our opponents. And I think that if you do that, what we will find is that decision which will be made will be in the best interests of America and the peace of the world.

And now if I could discuss the various issues which should enter into your judgment, first of all,, you must look at our record.

Our record in this field is one that obviously like all records in a campaign is controversial. For 7½ years Cabot Lodge and I have been part of the administration. We have sat in the Security Council. We have sat in the Cabinet. We have participated in the discussions leading to every major decision that the President has made in this period in the field of foreign policy. Both of us know Mr. Khrushchev. Both of us have sat opposite him at the conference table. Both of us, I think I can say, have never been taken in by him and never will be. We know what kind of a man he is. [Cheers and applause.]

This is the experience we offer, but in fairness I will have to admit that my opponent says this experience is not good. He says this experience is in programs - and I quote him - "these experiences have been in programs in the field of foreign policy for the last 7½ years, which have been years of defeat and retreat and stagnation for America" - and, my friends, I'm going to tell you those adjectives are all right, but he got the wrong administration. He meant Harry Truman's administration. [Cheers and applause.]

I spoke right here in 1952. You remember the situation. It was in that administration that 600 million people went behind the Iron Curtain. It was that administration in which the proud peoples of Eastern Europe went behind and were sealed behind the Iron Curtain. It was in that administration that, because of woolly-headed, fuzzyminded thinking in high places, we got into a war in Korea - and I proudly say today that, whatever your criticisms may be of the Eisenhower leadership, at least it was leadership that ended one war, has kept us out of other wars and has brought us peace without surrender today. [Cheers and applause.]

And so, you have now a great turning point in human affairs. The question that the American people must solemnly, quietly, looking deeply into their consciences, decide is this: Do we want to change direction? Do we want to repudiate the leadership of the President? Do we want to move in another direction? Do we need the kind of leadership that our opponent offers ?

And my answer is this: Consider what he offers and in fairness we must indicate that he has disagreed with the President. I will reiterate those disagreements, and then you judge. He criticized the President, for example, in 1955 and voted with the minority of Senators of his own party in trying to deny to the President the right to defend two islands of freedom, in doing exactly the same thing that, in effect, brought on the war in Korea, by drawing a line and saying to the Communists: Come and get it. The President said: "No." He said, "Yes" to that. The President was right and he was wrong, and that's why we kept peace in the Formosa Straits. [Cheers and applause.]

And then the second instance is one with which you are familiar. It is more recent. It was the summit conference in Paris last June. You remember Khrushchev shaking his fist under the chin of the President of the United States, using language so crude that the translator wouldn't even translate it, and people today don't even know what it was that was said, and then demanding that the President apologize for the U-2 flights, apologize in effect for defending the United States against surprise attacks, against his aggressive actions. The President refused, and my opponent said he could have apologized. The President was right and he was wrong, and the American people know it. [Cheers and applause.]

And then, more recently, in our last debate, you recall the discussion we had with regard to Cuba. Here the question was not who was against Mr. Castro, the pipsqueak dictator down there. [Cheers and applause.] The question was: How do you handle him? And the President took the proper course. Adhering to the treaties that we had, he said: We will quarantine him economically and politically. That has been done. And then my opponent said : Oh, this is too little; this is too late - and, shooting from the hip, but missing the mark, as he so often has done [cheers and applause] - what he did was - he shot from the hip, and he said - this is too little and too late. The Government should directly aid the anti-Castro forces in and out of Cuba. And a storm of protest arose all over the Americas, in the United Nations; and, so, the next day he said: I didn't mean it that way. And the next day he said, also after these other incidents: I support the President on Quemoy and Matsu. I didn't mean apologize and express regrets.

I give him, certainly, the right to change his mind. I say that he certainly has a right to tell the American. people that he now agrees with the President on these three issues. But, my friends, in the quietness of your own minds, consider this one point: A candidate can make a statement. He can be wrong. He can change his position the next day and nobody is hurt. A President of the United States, when he makes that decision, makes it for keeps.

Let me describe one decision he made. I remember a Monday morning when we went into Lebanon. Very early in the morning the President was pacing the floor in the oval office in the White House. He knew that if we sent American boys into Lebanon it risked war, and he knew, however, that if he didn't send them in it risked the certainty that the Communists would move down through the Near East and that it would bring war later, much greater risk. And, so, he had to decide between these two risks. It had to be a courageous decision. Only he could make it, and it had to be right the first time. He made the decision. It was right. There was no war. Communism was stopped in the Near East.

And the American people will be eternally grateful that for these last 7½ years we have had in the White House a man who has never shot from the hip.

I have often heard him say in Security Council meetings, in Cabinet meetings, after we've had a discussion and some people will suggest this course of action and somebody will suggest something else, and somebody will say: Mr. President, you've got to do something right now. And he will say: Now, just wait a minute. We're not going to make any mistakes in a hurry. We're not going to shoot from the hip. And then he has walked alone into the office, and then later in the day or a few days later he has made the decision, And it is that awesome responsibility that the next President. must assume.

I do not suggest to you, my friends, that I will have the ability that President Eisenhower has had. Here is one of the wisest men who has ever lived in this Nation or on this earth. [Cheers and applause.]

My friends, millions not only in America, but throughout the world will forever bless him, bless him as the man who led the forces of freedom in war to great victory, and bless him as the man who was the great peacemaker as President of the United States. [Cheers and applause.]

But, my friends, I can only tell you that I have been through the fire of decision. I can only tell you that I have seen what it means to make great decisions. I can only tell you that I know the men in the Kremlin, and I can assure you that, knowing the stakes, knowing the terrible consequences of rash or impulsive or arrogant action on the part of the President, that I pledge to you that, to the extent that my abilities and my background and my temperament permit, there will never be a decision made unless it is made in the coolness of contemplation, which is essential if we are to avoid war or surrender for the United States of America and the world. [Cheers and applause.]

And, if I may be permitted to make the comparison, Ike was not wrong on these three great points, either one of which, incidentally, could have led to war or surrender, either one of which - Quemoy and Matsu, the conduct of the President at the Paris conference, the suggestion that he apologize or express regrets, the decision with regard to Cuba - if my opponent had been President and had made those mistakes, we might have had the disaster that we all want to avoid. He changed his mind, yes, but, my friends, as I say, when you're President, you don't have that luxury of a second chance. And I say to you today [cheers and applause] - I say to you - I say to you in all seriousness - whether you are Democrats or Republicans - I do not say it in bitterness; I say it by way certainly of commenting on the conduct of a man who is a candidate for the Presidency - that I do not believe that we can afford to use the White House as a training school to give a man experience at the expense of the American people. [Cheers and applause].

May I finally say that we shall move forward. We shall move forward at home in these next 4 years as we have never moved before because we have a bigger base on which to build, and we shall move forward abroad. My friends, as I indicated on television last night, I want you to know that, as we approach this election day, I feel that this is one of those great moments of destiny for a nation and a people and whoever the man who is selected as President may be. It is a moment when the United States and its people must live up to and meet the challenge which confronts them or we will go the way of other great civilizations of the past that had great promise and high hopes, but who failed to meet their destiny.

My friends, I am convinced as I am standing here that we're going to meet this problem. I am convinced that we are going to have peace, and have it without surrender. I am convinced that the forces of freedom are going to prevail, that the people behind the Iron Curtain are going eventually to have freedom, and I am convinced of that not because of our military strength or our economic strength, both of which are important, but because we're on the right side. We believe in the right things.

You know what is going to count? Our faith in God; our belief in the rights of men; our recognition that the rights that men have to freedom, to justice - that these are rights that do not come from men, but come from God and cannot be taken away by men; our belief that all nations have a right to be independent and that all men have a right to be free. These things America has always believed. These things we stand for today, and it is because we do believe in the great ideals that all the world wants - people on both sides of the Iron Curtain - the Russian people, the Chinese people, the Polish people - all of them want this.

My friends, it is because we are on the side of right; it is because we are on God's side; it is because we are on this side [cheers and applause] that America will meet this challenge and that we will build a better America at home and that that better America will lead the forces of freedom in building a new world.

This is the challenge. This is the challenge that we have.

I am expected at this point to say; I am the only one who can do it. I do not say that, but I do say this: I say to you: Consider the qualifications of the two men running; consider them from the standpoint only of America, forgetting all other considerations, and the decision that is made, I am confident, tomorrow will be one that will be best for America. It will be best for the world.

It is this message with which I close my last speech as the Vice President of the United States.

Thank you. [Cheers and applause.]

Richard Nixon, Remarks of the Vice President, Ford Auditorium, Detroit, MI Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/273796

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