Richard Nixon photo

Remarks at a "Victory '72" Luncheon in San Francisco, California

September 27, 1972

Governor Reagan, Chairman Miller, Chairman Packard, all of the distinguished guests at the head table, and all of the distinguished guests in the audience:

I am sure you can see now how far the Governor and I will go to win the vote of women's lib, but let me say that as I stand here, after having flown across the country today from New York City, in our home State of California, that it is really a very, very great privilege to be received so warmly in the world's favorite city, San Francisco.

I can assure you, when I talk about the world's favorite city, as Governor Reagan will agree, whenever you travel to the countries of the world you will find leaders disagreeing about many things, but it is virtually unanimous--San Francisco is their favorite city. One of the reasons is that all the world is here. The world has made this city, and it is one of the reasons that today I have selected as the primary subject the problems of the world.

Let me say that in discussing that subject, I first want to say a word with regard to what has been termed the limited campaigning that I have been doing in this election year. I am quite aware of the fact, from long experience, that we have only 6 weeks, less than 6 weeks, before election day. Also, I want very much to win this election. I want very much to carry California. And there is nothing I welcome more than the opportunity to take the case for this Administration, for the last 4 years and for the next 4 years, to the American people.

But I believe my first obligation is to do my job as President of the United States of America, and that is the reason why, whenever it is necessary, when I feel it is necessary to stay in Washington to do the job that the people elected me to do, I will be there. When I can, I will be campaigning. That is why I ask you not only to contribute, as you have by attending this luncheon, but to work--do the work, perhaps, that we won't be able to do, by being out on the campaign trail.

Let me say, too, that in that same vein, I feel that Vice President Agnew certainly made the right decision when he broke off his campaign to fly back to Washington to be there when a very close tie vote involving national security was occurring in the United States Senate. That is the attitude, in other words, that we are approaching this campaign in. We want to win, but we recognize that our first responsibility is to this country. Our first responsibility is to carry on the great programs that we have begun, and in that connection, I want to direct my remarks to that area of greatest interest, I think, to this audience.

I say to this audience--perhaps because San Francisco is an international city in every sense of the word, because San Franciscans generally are international in their attitudes toward problems and not parochial, perhaps because Dave Packard, our chairman in northern California, has contributed so much to this Administration's defense policy and also to its successful foreign policy--for these and other reasons, I want to talk to this audience today about our foreign policy and our defense policy.

I do not want to talk to you in partisan political terms. I want to talk to you, in terms that are far more important, about this Nation: Where it is going, where it has been, and what the next 4 years can mean, because this is what is important.

I know these luncheons and dinners that we are having across the country are called Victory 1972, and that sounds real good; that is fine. But the question is: Victory for what? I say to you today, not victory for a man, or a man and his running mate, and not just victory for a party, but victory for America. I want this to be a victory for all the people of America. I want this to be a victory for what is best in America, and, particularly in this field of foreign policy, it is important that we recognize what the stakes are, how important it is, in our view, that the policies that we have begun be continued for 4 more years.

Let me go back, if I can, to the time that we came into office. It is rather hard to realize what some of the problems were that we faced in the United States and in the world at that time. But you will recall there were 550,000 men in Vietnam; there were 300 killed in action every week, on an average. You will recall, too, that there were no negotiations going on that had, certainly, any indication of progress or movement, and certainly at that point there was no American peace plan on the negotiating table.

You will also recall that, looking at the 'world scene, the world seemed to be frozen into hostile confrontation. Here in the Pacific, in which you in San Francisco, we in California, have such an enormous interest, we looked across this broad Pacific; we realized that three times in this century war has come to America from the Pacific. World War II for the United States started in the Pacific. Korea started in the Pacific. Vietnam came in the Pacific. Therefore, we know that the policies of the United States that are developed toward the Pacific are going to have an enormous effect in determining whether we have war or peace in the years ahead--not just ending the war in which we presently are involved, but preventing such wars in the future.

As I looked at that problem, I saw that for over 20 years the United States and the leaders of the Government, over one-fourth of all the people in this world, the People's Republic of China, had been without communication. I knew, of course, that the philosophies, as far as we were concerned and they were concerned, were totally different. That was the case then. That is the case now.

But I also realized that if we did not do something to thaw that out, something to establish some communication with the leaders of one-fourth of the most able people in all the world, that we were going down the road to an inevitable confrontation which might bring a war not only in the Pacific, but a war which could be destructive to all of civilization.

We look across to the other side of the world, as far as our relations with the Soviet Union were concerned, we find that 4 years ago negotiation was really at a standstill in all areas. There was no progress in arms control. There was no progress in the field of trade. No one thought of a possible cooperation in the field of space or environment or health or in the other areas that we have heard so much about in recent weeks and recent months. That was the world we found 4 years ago.

And here, again, we found an interesting situation. Dave Packard will remember, as he attended the meetings of the National Security Council, we found that in terms of the balance of power between the United States and the Soviet Union, that that enormous lead that the United States had had at the end of the Eisenhower era had evaporated, and that now, in terms of nuclear capability, the two great super powers were virtually even.

The world had changed, and unless something was done to exchange a period of confrontation and move from that to one of negotiation, and then possibly to cooperation, we were certainly going down the road to an inevitable clash which could lead again to a world disaster. That was the world that we found.

We worked on those problems. We have worked on them long and hard. We have not had total success, but we have had significant success. You all know that as far as the war in Vietnam is concerned that we not only have brought home over a half-million, we have not only reduced our casualties, but we have also now ended the American ground combat role. We have prepared the South Vietnamese so that they have demonstrated the ability to stop a major invasion of the Communists from the North, and we have done this without staining the honor of the United States of America. We have maintained the respect for the United States of America.

It would have been very easy to have moved in another direction, very easy simply at the beginning of the term in January of 1969 to have said: We didn't send these men there, the two previous administrations sent them there, get them home, blame it on the previous administrations and be a big hero. But we also knew that if the United States of America at that particular time had taken that step, that it might have ended that war, but it would have planted the seeds for others, because it would encourage that kind of aggression not only there but in the area of Indonesia, the other areas that are so important to freedom and so important to peace and progress in the Pacific and that part of the world.

So we made those decisions and we have had that degree of success, and we will continue until we achieve our goal, which will be ending the war, but ending it in a way that the United States maintains the respect of its friends around the world and, for that matter, of its adversaries.

But looking beyond that, it would have been very easy at the beginning of this term simply to look at the war we inherited, to realize that if we could deal with that, that would be an accomplishment in itself which the American people would appreciate.

But we did not stop there. We saw these other problems. We realized that we were living in a period--and this is the point that all of us must realize--we were living in a period when the time when the United States might be able to exert an influence for lasting peace in the world might never come again. It could pass us by. And so we moved. We made the initiative toward the People's Republic of China. We made the initiative toward the Soviet Union.

Let me emphasize again, our philosophies with both governments are totally different. As far as the leaders are concerned, we have not proceeded on the basis of any mushy sentimentality that friendship between leaders is going to bring friendship among people with different philosophies and governments with different philosophies. But we did proceed on this assumption: that we live in the world together. We did proceed on the assumption that in the event there was a nuclear war, that all of us would suffer together, and we, therefore, said that we had to find a way for governments with different philosophies to live together, to negotiate their differences rather than fight about them.

We had to find a way, for example-and thinking of all of these young people who have honored our luncheon today--a way in which the leaders of governments might disagree, but where the people, and particularly the younger people of the world, might still be friends. So we have proceeded on these assumptions.

We have made some progress, but don't let us overestimate it--and here is where I come to the job that lies ahead. As far as the People's Republic of China is concerned, we have begun a dialogue. We must now continue it, but it must be continued with no illusions that simply because we are talking that all the problems will evaporate. They are strong people. I am speaking now of the leaders as well as the people that they lead. They are determined. Their interests are different from ours in many cases; in some cases they are the same.

And only as each of us consult our interests and find that they are compatible will we get along. But the important thing is to continue, and we believe we have the experience, the know-how, to continue this dialogue so that it can develop into perhaps cooperation in the future.

Looking at the Soviet Union and our relations there, look at some of the things that have happened--they are significant. A cooperative venture in space is on the way, cooperation in the field of science, in the field of the environment, in the field of health, to which I will refer a little later, cooperation also in the field of trade, in which there will be significant announcements at a later date as these various agreements are reached, and cooperation, perhaps most important of all, in the field of arms control.

But let me take the last, which has captured the imagination of the American people the most, and put it in the context of what this election is about.

Arms control is important. We have agreed to a total ban, or agreement with regard to the limitation I should say, of defensive nuclear weapons. We have agreed to a partial limitation on offensive nuclear weapons. But the really hard negotiations lie ahead. Those negotiations will involve going forward on offensive nuclear weapons, limiting them, in Phase 2, and then, eventually, we trust, reducing them so that these two great powers can reduce the burden of arms which now rests upon their peoples and thereby also potentially reduce the danger of war.

It will not be easy. It was not easy to get where we did. But in order to continue from where we are, it is essential again that we do it in a realistic, pragmatic, nonsentimental way, because that is the kind of men we are dealing with, and we must be exactly that way in dealing with them.

Now I come to the point, then, of why the next 4 years are important. I am proud of this record of the last 4 years. I wish we could have done more. But we have changed the world. A thaw has occurred in the relations between the People's Republic of China and the United States. An even greater thaw has occurred in relations between the United States and the Soviet Union.

But you all know that the time of thaw is one of either very great promise or one of very great danger. And now the leadership that is important is to go forward in these areas that we have made these breakthroughs [in] and to continue them.

That is why we are asking the American people, that is why I am asking our friends here in California, in this San Francisco area, who have so much understanding of the world and so much interest in the problems of the world, to give us the chance to go forward.

We believe that we have demonstrated that we know how to make progress toward real peace in the world. But in order to, it seems to me, reach the inevitable result that we all want, of a world that is not totally peaceful--it will never be that because people will always have differences-but one where we can have differences without resorting to war, in order to reach that, we must continue on the path which has proved to be so successful up to this point.

Let me be very specific with regard to what we need to do in a couple of areas that have been discussed considerably in the press, and I understand also in some public forums. First, if we are to be successful in our continued negotiations with our friends and with our potential adversaries, and particularly in our negotiations with the Soviet Union, it is essential that the United States maintain a strong national defense.

I know there is a great deal of argument to the effect that it is not necessary for the United States to have a defense, as some have said, that is second to none. There are some who believe that we should make cuts in our defense budget, that we can safely make those cuts, that it doesn't really make any difference whether the United States has the second strongest Navy, the second strongest Army, the second strongest Air Force in the world.

As a matter of fact, we find that proposals have been made that would do exactly that. Let me say that as far as this particular proposal is concerned, it is one of the clearest issues of this campaign. Because I can assure you, based on the experience of the last 4 years, and based on looking back over 25 years of examining the world scene and traveling all over the world, the day the United States of America becomes the second strongest nation in the world, the danger of war will be enormously increased and the prospect of peace will be harmed. Let's not let that happen any time.

Because this audience is one that I know understands some of the intricacies of this problem, let me be somewhat more specific--the argument is sometimes made that it really doesn't make any difference whether the United States has a strong Navy, or a strong Air Force, or a strong Army compared with that of the Soviet Union, provided we have a sufficient nuclear deterrent.

Let me show you the fallacy of that argument. During the Eisenhower years, when the United States had a 15 to 20 times advantage over the Soviet Union in terms of nuclear capacity, a policy based on massive retaliation all around the world was a credible policy because when you are that far ahead of any potential opponent no potential opponent is going to test you. It was even true at the time of the Cuban missile crisis when our advantage was in the neighborhood of 8 to 10 times as great.

But the world has changed since then. Today we live in a situation when, in terms of nuclear capability, the Soviet Union and the United States are roughly equal--in some areas they are ahead and in some areas we are ahead, but we are roughly equal.

Consequently, whenever it is suggested that the policy of the United States, its foreign policy, should be based on the proposition that whenever a friend or an ally of the United States is threatened our only option will be a nuclear strike, this is not credible. It is not credible particularly where small nations are concerned whose survival does not affect directly the security of the United States of America, because every leader in the world will know that if a President of the United States is faced with a decision involving a small ally of the United States or a small nation with which we have a commitment, faced with a decision when that nation is threatened that requires him and allows him only to launch a nuclear war which would lead to nuclear devastation of the United States, he knows, and our potential adversaries know, that we would not do it. That is why we have to have a Navy which is the strongest in the world, that is why we cannot be second best in the field of the Air Force. That is why the United States of America, if it is to maintain a credible foreign policy, if our friends and allies, particularly among those small nations of the world whose survival does not directly affect us, if we are to have with those nations a credible foreign policy, it is essential that the United States maintain a strength overall in the nonnuclear area which is adequate and second to none.

That is why, even though I and Dave Packard when he served in that enormously important position of Under Secretary of Defense, where he had to make these decisions and recommendations to the President have had to oppose, much as we would have wanted the money for other purposes, we have had to oppose cuts in the defense budget which would result in making the United States second.

Let me just put it very bluntly this way: We don't want to spend one dollar more on defense than we need, because we need it for domestic purposes. But let us remember that spending more than we need in defense may cost us money, but spending less than we need could cost us our lives. Let's put the security of America first.

Now, let me put this in a much more positive context. I have spoken, I think quite properly and soberly, of the pragmatic situation that the leaders of the United States will face in dealing with the leaders of the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China and other nations in the years ahead. Let us also look at the promise. Let us see how the world has changed and how it can change even more for the better.

I think of our trip to Peking. I think of 800 million people who live in the People's Republic of China. I think of Chinese people that I have known in America-in San Francisco, in New York, in Los Angeles. I think of people I have known all over the world, the Chinese people, how able they are, in Singapore, in Saigon, Bangkok, Taiwan. And I think of those 800 million people. I think then of our own young people. I want the young people of America to live in an open world.

I don't mean that their government will be one that we will like, but I want the young people of America, our children and their children, not to be cut off from one-fourth of all of the people in the world. That is one of the things that this policy is about.

And I think of something else. I think of how much we can do working together. Here in San Francisco you see it all. When you think of the heritage from Asia, from Europe, from Latin America, from Africa, all the world is here. But working together, you have built a great city, a great area, and it is becoming greater and more beautiful all the time.

Let's put it in terms of the relations between nations. I am not referring now to those political areas where we will be in conflict and where we will have debates and where necessarily we may not agree. I recall a conversation I had a few weeks ago with the Russian Minister of Health. He, I found, was one of the major open heart surgery men in the world. He had just been down talking to Dr. DeBakey whom many of you know, the great surgeon in Texas, one of the best in the United States. We talked about how American doctors and Russian doctors might be able to develop methods to work together on finding cures for various diseases, in the field of heart, in the field of cancer, and all the rest.

When I saw Mr. Chou En-lai one evening, I talked to him about the work that doctors in China were doing and doctors in our own country were doing and whether it might not be possible at some time in the future where we could share our knowledge and possibly even work together.

Then I think that tomorrow in Los Angeles I will be addressing a national cancer conference. I think of the fact that we in this country have launched a massive campaign to find a cure for cancer, because each year cancer takes more lives than were lost in all of World War II--right here in America it takes more lives.

Now, our campaign is a good one; it is a big one. But the genius that may find a cure or the cures, because there may be many approaches for cancer or any other disease, may not be in America. It might be a Chinese. It might be a Russian. It might be a woman. It might be a man. It might be a young doctor. It might be an old one. It might be one from a small country in Latin America or Africa.

What we who are the leaders in the world community must do is to find ways that, where the common enemies of mankind are concerned, like disease and misery, we work together to fight those enemies. That is what this colloquy is about.

I would like to tell all of this audience today, and particularly our younger visitors, that with these next 4 years, that we will accomplish all these great goals. We will make progress toward them, and I think we will make considerable progress. The world is going to be safer. Your lives are going to be better, I trust, because of what we have done. But in order to do so we need the chance. We need a mandate. We need to go before the American electorate and then have the support of the American electorate, so that in meeting with leaders of the world, in dealing with the Congress, they will know that the American people back what this Administration has done.

That is why we say, give us a chance and we will do the job. That is what we are asking from the American people and from you today.

In that connection, may I simply add one final note with regard to what I said a few moments ago, to San Francisco, New York, what has made this country great. I helped to participate in the dedication of a museum for the immigrants who have come to the United States through Ellis Island, 34 million over about 90 years. As I went through that museum I thought of all the people that came, how strong they must have been. We saw replicas of the ships in which they moved. They were Poles and Italians and Germans. They were people from other continents.

Then as I come to San Francisco I think of the people that have come to this shore, not only come to this shore from across the Pacific, but have come here from across the continent, the strong people that they were. But the greatness of it all is that America, and particularly San Francisco, is all the world in one place. That has brought a rich diversity to our country and particularly to this city. It has brought hard work and determination, but it has also brought something else, something else that is enormously important if we are going to be able to carry forward with the kind of responsible leadership in the world that America must have in the years ahead.

I find that those who have come to America from other countries, or second generation or even third, have a deep appreciation of this country that sometimes those of us who live here have not had. I think of the time at the Bohemian Grove 5 years ago when a man celebrated what he said was his 45th birthday.1

1The Bohemian Grove was a redwood grove in northern California owned by the Bohemian Club of San Francisco and site of the club's annual encampment. The club's members are nationally known artists in music, theater, and all the arts, as well as distinguished civic, business, and professional leaders in California and other parts of the United States. George Mardikian, author and restaurateur, was a member of the club.

Now, George Mardikian, 5 years ago, was much older than 45, but he called it his 45th birthday because that was the year that he became a citizen of the United States. I remember the tears in his eyes as he spoke of America. And there were tears in our eyes, too.

As I have participated in citizenship ceremonies over these last years as President of the United States, in Chicago, in New York, have welcomed new citizens, I see the pride in their faces, how proud they are to be American citizens.

Let me say to our young people today: Sure, there are some things wrong with this country, but there is so very much right about it. One of the great things that is right about it is that you are participating in this process in a peaceful way. Oh, there are other ways. You can get out and try to shout down a speaker, but the way to do it is the way that you are doing it, participating, listening to the candidates, and supporting the candidates of your choice.

But the most important thing that I want to tell you is this: I have spoken of the world. Along with Mrs. Nixon, we have visited most of the countries of the world, in fact, over 80. And every time you come back to the United States you know that the people fortunate enough to live here are the most fortunate people in the world. This is a great country. Let's never forget that.

Note: The President spoke at 1:40 p.m. at a Republican fund-raising luncheon in the Garden Court Restaurant of the Sheraton Palace Hotel. He spoke without referring to notes.

Otto N. Miller was chairman of the "Victory '72" luncheon. David Packard, Deputy Secretary of Defense 1969-71, was chairman of the Committee for the Re-Election of the president in northern California.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at a "Victory '72" Luncheon in San Francisco, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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