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Replies to Reporters' Questions About Reaction to Address on Southeast Asia

October 08, 1970

THE PRESIDENT. I talked to Secretary Rogers this morning and he was very pleased with the reaction, worldwide. Of course, all of the messages are not yet in, but up to this time it has been a very, very good reaction from leaders all over the world supporting the peace initiative that we have taken.

The other thing that is significant is that we had very good support in the House and Senate. That is significant because the leaders in Hanoi have said over and over again, publicly, and all the experts say that they believe this, that they are going to wait for political division in the United States to get them at the conference table what they can't win on the battlefield.

The fact that Americans of both parties supported this peace initiative, people like Senator Mansfield, the leader of the Senate, and others, this is, of course, very important in presenting a united front on the peace initiative. So we were glad that we had support at home, support abroad, good editorial support from those that I saw in the United States.

The immediate reaction in Hanoi, of course, is no indication of what their reaction will be later. The immediate reaction always has to be one of what appears to be rejection in such a case.

But if the situation continues as we think it will, of broad world support for the peace initiative, and broad support within the United States, I believe that Hanoi will recognize that this is a very serious proposal. It is one that is fair to them and fair to us, and it is one that they should seriously consider rather than simply to repeat the same old lines that they have repeated previously.

We have made some new proposals and now we think that they have the opportunity to make some new proposals. If they do, we can make some progress. That is the way we are going to play it.

We didn't make this simply to have a propaganda line, as I pointed out. We made this proposal because we wanted to cover every base that we could. And so, that is why we offered the cease-fire, a total cease-fire. That is why we offered a total withdrawal of all of our forces, something we have never offered before, if we had mutual withdrawal on the other side. That is why we had a very forthcoming position on the release of all prisoners without regard to trading one for one or two for one. We will release all we have; they will release all they have. That means not only we, but the South Vietnamese as well--and an all-Indochina conference.

And while we indicated, too, that we were flexible on these matters, it seems under these circumstances that this is now the chance, the time, to make some progress at the peace table.

Next week we will get the official response from Hanoi in the public session and we would hope that it would indicate some progress. But whether it does or it does not we intend to continue to press this. It takes a long time to get a peace proposal like this, after a long war, on the tracks, to get progress on it.

We are not going to be discouraged by rejections. We are not going to be discouraged by attitudes that we would expect. Because we feel so strongly that this is a fair proposal we are going to continue to press it in every world forum, in Paris, and, of course, in the event that the opportunity is presented, to the North Vietnamese and other channels.

REPORTER. Mr. President, I realize you are deliberately not trying to connect any local political considerations, domestic political considerations. But as a pragmatist, Mr. President, do you feel there will be a spin-off from this in your own personal popularity in the weeks ahead? Do you think that will be of any benefit to the Republican Party as you move around and try to support and help some of these candidates?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think that it has that kind of effect. I feel that it was not, of course, intended for that. If we had intended it for that, I am politically enough astute to have done it just about 4 days before the election. Then we would not have known what the result would have been and people would have voted their hopes rather than the realities.

We did this at the right time, from the standpoint of trying to make progress in the negotiations, and at a time when all of our advisers thought it could be made without jeopardizing our forces in Vietnam.

Now having done that, the effect, politically, I do not think is going to be particularly significant at this time, and particularly in view of the fact that we have bipartisan support for it. If the other side, if other candidates were to make it a political issue, then it would be politically significant. But since there is bipartisan support for this proposal, I believe that it is not going to have any particular effect on the campaign one way or another.

REPORTER. Thank you.

Note: The exchange took place at 1:55 p.m. as the President arrived at Skidaway Island near Savannah, Ca.

Richard Nixon, Replies to Reporters' Questions About Reaction to Address on Southeast Asia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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