Speech by the Vice President on "Nixon Tonight," CBS-TV, New York, NY
I should like to tell you about one of the most exciting and thrilling experiences of my life, which occurred right today in New York City. Along with President. Eisenhower and Ambassador Lodge, we rode up Broadway and Fifth Avenue. Over a million cheering people were there to greet us. I wait to tell you what went through my mind as I saw these people. I thought of the. fact that our people come from all the nations of the world and that one of the reasons we are a great people is that we bring the best people here and then give them their opportunity to develop their talents to the full.
I also thought of something else, something I am sure is on the minds of every person in America and every person in the world today, for that matter. I realized that if just one atomic bomb were to strike New York it would wipe out this greatest city in the world with all the people in it practically. This could happen, but it must not happen.
And I say tonight that the greatest issue in this campaign, the one which should concern every voter more than any of the others, is: Which of the two teams of candidates can best keep the peace, keep the peace for America and the world, and keep it without surrender of principle or territory?
On this issue you will make a fateful decision, a choice that you will make next Tuesday, because the choice is between two very different and opposing points of view. We have, in the first instance, Ambassador Lodge and myself, who have been part of this administration, for 7½ years have worked under the President, who have sat in on the decisions and participated in the discussions leading to the great decisions in that period; and then you have our opponents, who offer a change of leadership, who are critical of what has been done in these 7½ years, who believe that we need a new direction in foreign policy.
And so, you have to decide which way will America turn. Shall we build on the principles that have kept the peace without surrender for the last 7 years or shall we change to new, untried leadership which says: The past has failed. Therefore, we must have new leadership for tile future.
Well, first, I think it's necessary to examine the charge, and the charge, of course, is - and it's been repeated over and over again - that the Eisenhower years in the field of foreign policy have been years of retreat and defeat for America. My friends, there's only one thing about that statement. It refers to the wrong administration. It was the Truman administration that, of course, were the years of the greatest retreat and defeat for America and the causes of freedom that we ever had in the history of the world.
You recall 600 million people went behind the Iron Curtain in that period.
You remember at the end of those years we were in a bloody war in Korea that cost us 140,000 American casualties, a war that was without end and at that time seemed without purpose.
And you know what happened. President Eisenhower ended that war and has avoided other wars in this period. And, so, we cannot say that the charge holds up.
Now, the question is: Where do we go from here? How can we keep the peace in the future?
Well, let me tell you first how it has been kept, how we have been able to learn what peace demands in this 7½ year period. There have been instance after instance in which we could have been involved in war, but where wise and forceful and decisive leadership has avoided that terrible possibility.
There was a situation in Trieste involving Yugoslavia and Italy - settled without war.
There was a situation in the Philippines in which we had Communist guerrillas threatening a friendly government to the United States - settled without war.
There was a situation in Indochina where we had a civil war raging - and finally settled without war.
There was a situation in Iran where there was a pro-Communist government for a time, and that now has been settled with a friendly government to the United States in power in that country.
There was a situation in the Formosa Straits area. You have heard a lot about that in this campaign, but the important thing is that it's been settled and that it has been settled without war - at least up to this time - and I believe it will continue to be in that category if we continue the right kind of policy that we've been following in that particular area.
And, then, of course, more recently we have the situation in Cuba. We have the situation in the Congo. We have others, too many even to describe, but in each one of these that I have mentioned if we had leadership that was inexperienced, if we had leadership that shot, from the hip, if we had leadership that made the wrong decision, the United States and the whole world might have been plunged into war.
And I say to you tonight that the American people, therefore, will be eternally grateful to President Eisenhower for providing the kind of leadership that avoided war and avoided surrender, despite the great problems that we had, because - let's understand just one thing now: The world is not going to change as far as problems are concerned. The Communists are going to continue to stir up trouble all over the world.
The question is: What leaders are experienced enough, what leaders are strong enough, what leaders understand the Communists well enough, knowing how to deal with them, to deal with them without involving us in war and at the same time without surrendering to them either principle or territory?
Now, when we turn to our opponent, what do we find? We find that he has disagreed with the President, disagreed with him on Quemoy and Matsu, where he wanted to deny the President the power to defend those two islands in the President's duty to defend Formosa, our ally.
We find that he disagreed with the President in his conduct at the Paris Conference, and there again is another instance; Berlin, which has been a tinderbox, which could have always exploded into war, and war has been avoided, but there again at the Paris Conference, you recall, Mr. Khrushchev broke it up. The President refused to apologize to him for the U-2 flights.
My opponent said he could have apologized, could have expressed regrets. I think the President was right. I think my opponent was wrong. And more recently, in Cuba where he says that our policy of quarantining Mr. Castro is too little and too late, and where he advocated a policy which universally was interpreted as Government intervention in the affairs of that country, a policy which would have lost us every friend in Latin America, because it would have broken treaties with all of those countries, and a policy which, if carried out, would have invited war in this hemisphere, because certainly, if our Government had intervened, the Communists would have had a good excuse for coming in.
Now, on all three of these points I recognize that Mr. Kennedy has said he has changed his mind, that he now supports the President on Quemoy and Matsu, that as far as Cuba is concerned, he didn't intend it to mean the way it sounded, and that in the field of the Paris Conference, that he agreed that the President, perhaps, conducted himself the right way under the circumstances; but, my friends, that isn't enough. When you're a candidate you can say something, make a mistake, and correct it the next day and nobody is the worse for it. But when you're President of the United States, when you speak or act as President, it's for keeps. You can't take it back, and the decision that you make must be the right one, because, if it's the wrong one, you run the risk of war, the risk of surrender, and in each of these three instances, I believe that if my opponent had been President and had made the decisions the way he indicated he would have made them, it would have risked war or surrender for the United States in those particular areas.
And I ask you: Can we afford to use the White House, in effect, as a training school to give a man experience at the expense of the country? Let me tell you now what I believe we can do, what Cabot Lodge, my colleague, and I will do if you give us the opportunity to lead this country in the next 4 years.
First of all, we shall keep this country strong militarily, and I shall discuss that in my broadcast tomorrow. We shall keep the country strong economically and expand our economy. I shall discuss that also in one of these future broadcasts at this time in this week. But, in addition to that, we will follow the firm, strong line and diplomacy which President Eisenhower has followed.
What do I mean by that? I mean that we will always be willing to go the extra mile, as he has been willing to go, to negotiate for disarmament, to negotiate for reducing tensions, but we will always recognize that in dealing with the Communist dictators or any dictators, that giving them an inch doesn't mean that they will take a mile. They will take the whole world. What I mean by that is this: What we have to recognize is that in dealing with Hitler and then with Stalin and now with Khrushchev or Mao Tse-tung, that those who believe that surrendering a little territory here or there at the point of a gun doesn't really in the long run do any harm and that it might avoid war, are engaging in exactly the wrong kind of thinking.
That's what led to the Korean war, because the Communists, for example, do not want just Quemoy and Matsu. They don't want just Formosa. They want the world. And that's why if we want peace, we must be firm, always willing to negotiate, but never willing to concede unless we get concessions which are equal in return.
But we won't stop here. We recognize that it is not enough just to hold the line for peace.
Remember, we recognize that if we are going to have the kind of a world we want for our children and our grandchildren, that we must extend freedom, extend it throughout the world, and extend it without war, and we ask you to join us m a great crusade, a crusade which America will lead, a crusade in which we will strengthen the instruments of peace like the United Nations and the Organization of American States, a crusade in which we will strengthen the instruments of freedom and to build new ones throughout the world, a crusade in which we hold up as an ideal to all people on both sides of the Iron Curtain the hope and eventually the reality that they, too, have a right to be free, as we enjoy freedom here in the United States.
And, finally, my friends, may I give you this one word of faith: I know that we can have peace. I know that we can have freedom. I know it because I have seen the world, and the people of the world on both sides of the Iron Curtain want peace. They want freedom.
I remember on our trip to Russia as we were driving through the Ural Mountains in the countryside one day, schoolchildren on the side of the road threw flowers into our car and shouted in English, "Friendship; friendship."
My interpreter said that the first English word taught to Russian children is the word "friendship."
Now, this doesn't mean that the Communist leaders are going to relent in their desire to conquer the world, but it does mean that the people on both sides of the Iron Curtain want peace, and it is our responsibility to lead them to peace, and we ask you for the opportunity to assume that great task.
Thank you very much.
Richard Nixon, Speech by the Vice President on "Nixon Tonight," CBS-TV, New York, NY Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/273667