Speech of the Vice President, KFRE-TV, Fresno, CA
I first want to tell all of you who are listening to this program and viewing it how much I appreciate your giving me some of your precious television time. I say that advisedly. I recall when I was home a couple of Sundays ago my younger daughter, Julie, who is 12 years old, said she was going to be awfully glad when this campaign was over; and I asked her why. She said: "Well, I'll be glad when we can get back to some our our favorite programs which these political programs take the place of." So, I suppose those of us who are candidates don't realize that we are on so much that you who view us may be getting a little tired of hearing about the issues. On the other hand, you do realize, and I think most of the American people realize - that the decision you make on November the 8th, next Tuesday; will be one of the most important decisions you will ever make in your life. That's why you're listening tonight, and that's why I want to talk to you tonight differently from the way you usually hear political speeches made.
I have traveled already in 40 States, and I am coming into California, here in Fresno, in the heart of California, for my last tour of California before election day on Tuesday. In these travels I live spoken literally, I suppose, to hundreds of thousands of people and to millions by television, usually at great rallies, where, I tell them what I believe in and the things I want to do. My opponent does the same thing, of course. He talks to great numbers of people at rallies that are sponsored for him. And then we had the television debates, which I am sure many of you have seen. It has occurred to me, however, that these rallies and debates have lacked something which you might like. In all of these instances we've been telling you what we wait, what we want to do for the country, what we believe that you want, and what I would like to do tonight is to discuss the issues exactly in the reverse manner.
I would like to discuss the problems confronting the United States in the terms of what you, the people of the United States, want, you, the families of America, of California, those listening to me on this station tonight.
Incidentally, I do want to say to those down in Fresno and as well in Bakersfield how much I appreciated your coming to our meetings here in Fresno, and I regret that I couldn't get to Bakersfield and that we had to cancel our meeting there. I only hope that at some later time, perhaps after the campaign is over, I can visit Bakersfield again. Our schedule just wouldn't permit our reaching there at this occasion.
But, getting back to the issues before us, I suggest that we consider them tonight in terms of what you want from your Government in Washington, D.C. I think the first thing that everybody would say he wanted from the Government in Washington could be summed up in one word, the word "progress."
We Americans are a go-ahead people. We're never satisfied with things as they are. That's why we're a great people. That's why, as a matter of fact, California is one of the greatest States, because our people have always been progressive. We wanted to move forward.
And, so, I am sure that every one of you listening would like to judge the two candidates. You'd like to see how we measure up in terms of progress for America, progress for you, and that means: How do we measure up in terms of providing better education, better housing, better jobs, better security, better medical care for the people of the United States?
Now on this score you have somewhat of a problem, I am sure, in choosing between the candidates because, obviously, we both have programs to deal with these problems, and we believe that our programs are the best programs. I say that mine are and my opponent, I know, says that his are.
And, also, you have difficulty, I am sure, in judging which one of us to believe, because he says, for example, that over the last 7½ years, the Eisenhower years, America has been standing still, that we haven't moved ahead and that one of the reasons for voting for him is to get America going again. I say that isn't true. I say that in the last 7½ years we have been moving forward and that what we should do is not to discard those policies, but to build on them, to improve them.
And, so, that's the question you have to decide. Do you want to turn away from those policies, discard them, and go back to the policies we left 7½ years ago, which is in effect what my opponent is advocating, or do you want to go forward, building on the policies of these 7½ years?
Well, before you can answer that question, you have to determine who is right. Have we been standing still or haven't we?
And you know the answer to that question is one that you don't have to depend on either me or my opponent, because you know. Look around you. Look around your communities. Look at the new schools, the new shopping centers, the new highways. You will find what the truth is, and the truth is that we have had the greatest progress in the past 7½ years in this country that we have ever had in America. We built, for example, three times as many classrooms in the 7½ Eisenhower years as in the 7½ years of Mr. Truman which preceded them, and we can make the same comparisons in terms of building of hospitals, of highways.
But, getting to the key one, let's take the wage earner. We find that in the Eisenhower years wages have gone up and that real purchasing power for the wage earner has increased by a net 15 percent. That means that the purchasing power of the wage earner is 15 percent more now than it was in 1953.
What was the situation before? Well, wages went up all right during the Truman administration, but you recall, those of you who were wage earners at that time, that you didn't get any benefit out of it. You didn't get any benefit because prices went up just as much, and because we have held prices in check this means that you have had real increases in wages in our administration.
So, I say that they can't make the charge stand up that we have been standing still. America has had great progress, and I believe that most Americans recognize this and they want to build on that progress. They don't want to cast it aside - cast it aside and return to the policies of the past.
However, one question has been raised in the final days of this campaign, raised, in my opinion, in terms of a scare tactic, a frantic endeavor on the part of our opponents to scare the people into voting for them, which I think should be commented upon right in this television program.
I noted, for example, when I was in Detroit a few days ago the first evidence of this tactic. I have it here in front of me, a copy of the Detroit Free Press. I think that our television camera over here can pick it up. You see this headline? It says: "U.S. Facing Slump, Kennedy Declares." Now he has been making this statement since then, every day. If you picked up your papers this morning, or if you pick them up tomorrow morning, you will see some comments to the effect that we are facing a slump - and, so, that must cause you concern. If we are facing a slump, then we will assume that there's something wrong with our present policies and we had better have a change.
Are we facing a slump? And I tell you we're not. I point to the fact that we have had a greater increase in employment last month than is usually the case seasonally and a decrease in unemployment which is greater than usual. I also point to something else. Let me just show you something in this paper - same paper, but a different headline. Look at the top over here: "Ten-day Auto Sales Set Record."
Now what does that mean? If the people of the United States are buying more new cars than ever before, that means they have faith in the future. That means that they believe we are not going to have a slump - and we won't have one, because you know what causes a recession? What causes it is when people lose confidence, when they quit buying.
And so, say somebody's wrong here. Either Senator Kennedy is wrong or the American people are wrong, and I think the people are right. The people have confidence in our economy. They're buying more. They're saving more. They're spending more than ever before. We're not going to have a recession. Were not going to allow ourselves to be talked into one, and I can assure you that under our administration we will move forward, move forward to even greater heights than we have reached during the past 7½ years.
So, now, let's look at the programs that are offered for moving America forward. We have my programs. We have my opponent's. There's one difference between them that is very significant. His cost a great deal more - $15 billion a year more he would add to the Federal budget.
Now that's quite a bit of money, but let's understand what it would really mean. This $15 billion a year isn't something that's impersonal. This isn't so-called Government money or Federal money. This is your money.
Oh, I know I have heard the claims made - and you have heard them made - that this money is going to be spent and that we can enact the programs and pay for the promises that our opponents have been making in this campaign and that we aren't going to have to raise taxes and that we're still going to be able to balance the budget; but, my friends, you know better than that. Money doesn't grow on trees. You cannot add $15 billion worth of Federal Government spending to the budget and not raise taxes or have deficit spending - and that means raising prices. You can't do it, in other words, unless you give up part of the program.
And, so, I say that the American people are not dumb. They aren't going to be taken in by this medicine man tactic of saying: The solution for every problem is: Spend some more money, some more Federal money, and take away the responsibility from the individuals and the States, which has been a major factor in creating the tremendous progress that is America's today.
I say that the American people are going to think twice before they change the course of the direction of this Government, change it by greatly expanding Federal spending, by greatly expanding Federal intervention in our economy and by discouraging the very factor that creates wealth, which has resulted in the progress that we've had, and that's individual enterprise, investment in the economy, in the future of America.
I think there's another reason that the American people do not want this kind of program, why they're not going to be taken in by a man who goes all over the country promising a solution for every problem in terms solely of what the Federal Government will spend and how much more it will spend. I think that the American people realize how cruel this kind of policy can be.
I referred a moment ago to what happened to our money during the course of the Truman administration. That was terribly difficult for people who were wage earners, but they didn't have it nearly as hard as those on social security, on pensions and life insurance.
You remember what happened? You had a fixed income, and your income was cut in half because the value of the dollar went down 50 cents in that 7½-year period. That was the cruel thing to do. It was the kind of program that virtually wrecks social security.
And just let me stay something on that score. I've been rather amused about the comments that have been made during the course of this campaign, some of them that have been made with regard to what I am supposed to have been for and against, but one that has not amused me has been the charge that I and my party oppose the social security program and that I led a wrecking crew for the purpose of wrecking it. My friends, look at the record. We have added 10 million people to social security during the Eisenhower years. We had the greatest increase of benefits to social security in those 7 years of any administration since the program began, and I have a program that will extend social security to 2 million not presently covered. My opponent has no program for extending it in this direction. So, I say to you the record shows who is a friend of social security. The record shows that the charges about wrecking it, incidentally, should apply not to me but to my opponent.
And I ask all of you - and that's most Americans - who do have social security, - and this means that those of you who are saving for your future - I ask you: Don't you believe that your Government owes you the responsibility of not spending more than it takes in so that the money you save and put in social security or pensions today will buy as much as it took you to earn it today?
I'm going to make one pledge, one pledge that I believe any candidate for the Presidency owes to the people to make, and that is that we must never let happen again what happened in the Truman years. We can't break faith with the people who save their money and then come to retirement and find that the money they earned won't buy what they planned that it would be able to buy at that time.
And, so, in this field of Government spending it's a very real problem.
What do I think ought to be done about it? Well, my friends, the Federal Government has many responsibilities, responsibilities in the field of defense, responsibilities in the field of education, responsibilities in the field of reclamation, which we understand so well and which we support so enthusiastically here in California and in the Western States. But let us remember, too, that a President of the United States has a responsibility to all the people of this country, and that is to see that every dollar is spent that is needed and that is necessary to see that progress occurs in this country, but that not one dollar is spent for political purposes, for the purpose of buying votes, in effect, with the peoples' money, that not one dollar is sent that could be better spent by the people, themselves, because this applies to everybody.
Let's take our farmers for just a moment. One of the major problems in this very knotty farm problem is the cost-price squeeze. Many farmers who have spoken to me in the Midwest and in California have said, as their income may go up or down, the difficulty is that the prices of the things they buy seem to go up faster than the prices of the things they sell - and thus is exactly what would happen if my opponent's program were enacted, because with this tremendous increase in Federal spending the prices of what everybody buys would go up, and that would include the prices of what our farmers buy.
So, on this particular issue I say that the very fact that I stand against this wasting of the people's money, that I stand against programs that will not produce progress, but would only produce more spending, indicates an interest in and a concern for your problems - and I pledge to you that I will always have that concern in the years ahead.
Now, if I could turn to one other issue, an issue of tremendous importance, an issue of overriding importance, I should say, in this campaign and for the whole world, what could be more important than a job? What could be more important than adequate security and adequate pension? What could be more important than good medical care, all of these things which I stand for and for which I have programs that I believe are far superior to my opponent's: Well, being around to enjoy our good life in this country is more important than that.
I have traveled a great deal, as you know perhaps, in the last 7½ years. It's been a great privilege to see the world, to visit both sides of the Iron Curtain and to visit the countries of Asia and Africa arid Latin America and Europe - 55 in all. During travels I have seen what war can do when it comes to a country. Now, we have suffered from war - World War I, World War II, and Korea. American boys have died, given their lives by the thousands, for the cause of freedom and peace; but we have never suffered from war that has been brought to America. I have seen places like Tokyo and Berlin, northern Italy; areas that did receive real damage, damage from war that was brought to the country, itself but that damage was absolutely nothing compared to the damage that will come to all the world, including the United States, if we allow world war III, because we know that in world war III the United States cannot be immune from attack. We know, for example, that it takes just one nuclear bomb to knock out a city like New York or Los Angeles or San Francisco. So the major responsibility of the next President of the United States; above everything else, will be to keep the peace for America, keep the peace without, surrender of principle br territory.
Now, here again the people of this country, the people of California, have a major decision to make. You must decide between me and my opponent. The question between its, of course, is not who is for peace or who is against communism, We both feel the same way on that issue. The question is: Who has the qualifications? Who can give the leadership that the Nation needs?
I am not going to be so presumptuous as to tell you if I am elected there aren't going to be any problems in the world, that the Russians and the Communists are going to start acting much better than they are at the present time, that they aren't going to continue to attempt to give us trouble around the world, that they aren't going to continue their attempts to take over the world by any means, if necessary. I will, however, tell you this: That I have had certain experience that I think is worth considering. For 7½ years my colleague, Cabot Lodge, and I have been in the Cabinet and in the Security Council. We have sat with the President as he has made great decisions involving war and peace for America and for the world.
For 7½ years we have been through, in other words, the fire of decision - and you learn something as you see these decisions made. Also, both of us have had the experience of meeting Mr. Khrushchev. We've sat opposite him at the conference table. I have had him shake his fist right under my chin and tell me that he and his country were going to catch the United States, that they were going to catch us and pass us economically, that they were going to defeat us in the struggle for the world and that they were going to do it without war. I know, too, what his designs are, I believe. I also know what I think we have to do if we are going to stop him without war and if we are going to build a world in which all men can be free, including the men and the women behind the Iron Curtain.
As far as my opponent is concerned, I can only point to his record in this campaign. The American people have heard him disagree sharply with the President's policy on three basic issues
First, we heard him in the case of Quemoy and Matsu during the course of our television debates indicate that in 1955 he would have drawn a line, drawn a line excluding these two islands of freedom off the China coast from the area that would be defended by the President of the United States in his discretion in the event he thought it was necessary to defend Formosa, our ally. He said that by doing this he thought this would contribute to peace. The President thought he was wrong, and the Senate sustained the President overwhelmingly, with a majority of my opponent's own party voting with the President rather than with him. The President was right. He was wrong, and the proof of it is that we have kept the peace in the Formosa Straits - kept it because when you deal with a dictator, surrendering territory to him, does not satisfy him. It only invites him in. It only encourages him to ask for more.
Why do I say that? Because that's what happened with Hitler.
Why do I say that? Because that is what happened with the Korean war. You remember? Secretary Acheson in January of 1950 drew a line excluding Korea from our defense zone, and I suppose many Americans said: Well, this is good. We won't have a war about Korea. But 140,000 American boys learned differently, and President Eisenhower stopped that war, and he didn't make that same mistake in regard to Quemoy and Matsu, and I can assure you that I will never make that mistake, because I know the Communists. I know that they do not want just Quemoy and Matsu. They don't want just Formosa. They want the world. The moment you make a concession without getting one in return you do not serve the cause of peace with them. You only serve the cause of war or surrender, because it stimulates them and encourages them to demand more and more and more, and eventually that leads to war.
The second error that I think my opponent made was when he criticized the President's conduct at the Paris Conference. Let me recall the facts. You remember Mr. Khrushchev demanded that the President apologize or express regrets to him for the U-2 flights which the President had ordered in order to get intelligence information with regard to Soviet preparations for surprise attack against the United States and the free world. Now, why couldn't the President express regrets? He couldn't because no President can express regrets for attempting to defend the security of the United States of America, and here again my opponent said he could have; I thin he was wrong. I think the President was right.
The third instance was in our fourth debate. I am sure many of you who are listening tonight or viewing this program saw that debate, and you recall there that I and my opponent had a sharp disagreement. I stood with the President's program with regard to Cuba. I said the program should be one of containing Castro, containing him economically and politically, containing him in this way by a quarantine program, in effect. My opponent indicated that this was too little and too late, and he said he advocated a program where the U.S. Government would aid the anti-Castro forces in and out of Cuba. Now, that sounded pretty good, because everybody would assume, when they heard that: Well, Mr. Kennedy must be against Castro. But the trouble with that was that was shooting from the hip, and it was dead wrong because it would have violated five treaties we have with the Latin American countries. It would have violated article 1 and article 2 of the United Nations Charter. It would have lost us friends around the world. It was such a mistake that Mr. Kennedy had to retract the statement or at least explain it, and explain it away, a couple of days later.
But that brings me to the key point: He's changed his mind on all three of these subjects. He indicates now on Quemoy and Matsu he supports the President. He indicates now he didn't really intend to suggest that the President could have apologized, that he supported what the President did at the Paris Conference, and he says that as far as Cuba is concerned he meant all along that only he thought that we should give moral support to the cause of freedom - and that, of course, is what we have been doing all along.
But, my friends, let me tell you one thing: A candidate can make a mistake and then take it back the next day and the country is no worse for it; but a President can't.
I have been in the Office of the President when he's made great decisions. I remember the day we went into Lebanon. It was a Monday morning. The President paced the oval room of the White House, finally reached his conclusion. He turned and he said: Well, we have to go in. He knew that sending our troops into Lebanon was a risk, a risk of war, but he knew that if we didn't stop them there that there was a graver risk of war, almost a certainty, as the Communists moved their influence down through the Middle East. But if the President had been wrong then he couldn't have called back his decision or his words.
And I say in this instance we have three indications from my opponent, when the chips were down, in the course of this campaign, would have made the wrong decision - and I ask you: Can we use the White House, in effect, as a training school where a man gets experience at the expense of the American people?
I do not suggest to you that if I am elected I will not make mistakes. I do only say however, that I know what these problems are. I do say that, having been through the fire of decision, as I described it, I do believe that in these years ahead I can avoid some of the mistakes that might come from rashness, from shooting from the hip, from impulsiveness.
My friends, the most. important responsibility of the next President will be to keep the peace, and we will not be able to keep the peace unless we have a President who, in addition to wanting to do it, will have the experience, the judgment, the background, the calmness in a crisis that President Eisenhower has displayed in such great magnitude. I do not suggest that I can equal him, but I do pledge to you that, with your support, I will give to this Nation every bit of the effort that is within me to work in the cause of peace and freedom.
Finally, may I give this personal note to my friends here in California: I believe the issues in this campaign are so important that Californians, along with the rest of Americans, must think not of party first, but of country first.
This is not a question of whose party label I wear or you wear, or my opponent wears. It's a question of what leadership America needs, and I say that: If you believe that the leadership that Cabot Lodge and I can provide is the leadership that America needs, then and only then do I ask for your support. If you do believe that, then I ask you: Go out and work for us, work for us recognizing that you will be working not just for a man and not just for a party, but for what is best for America - and that is best for you.
Thank you, and good night.
Richard Nixon, Speech of the Vice President, KFRE-TV, Fresno, CA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/273745