Statement of the Vice President of the United States on Campaign Issues, Los Angeles, CA
In the final hours of the 1960 presidential campaign, it is appropriate to reflect for a moment on where we stand before looking ahead to the situation in which the Nation will find itself in 1961.
None will disagree that this has been a long and hard-fought campaign for both Senator Kennedy and me. Certainly more voters have seen and heard us in person and electronically than in any previous campaign, absolutely and relatively. Because we live in a jet age, I have been able to go to all 50 States of our great land.
Now, as usual, there are some who say that there has been public apathy in this campaign and that the issues have not been sharply drawn. To those suffering from this chronic form of political myopia I say, wait until you see the avalanche of votes that the American people will deposit in their ballot boxes and voting machines on Tuesday. A new record will be set.
Very often a candidate can see and feel what others cannot, because he, in the final analysis, is the one who stands before the people to ask for their mandate to the most important public office on this earth.
I have felt a deep public conviction that this 1960 presidential election is one of the most crucial in American history. The people have a common intuition that no individual can equal. They see the issues clearly and they understand the depth of the division between myself and Senator Kennedy. They know that we would go in two fundamentally different directions both at home and abroad.
After an earlier public career that would have indicated otherwise, Senator Kennedy has committed himself irrevocably to the concept of the infallibility of the state. He prefers government action to individual action. He prefers government spending to individual spending. Every single program he has set forth finds its central mechanism in some law, some Executive order, some appropriation by the Federal Government in Washington.
He does not shy from Federal involvement in our private affairs or from bureaucratic controls. In the case of his farm program, to take a typical but important example, he would bring every single facet of our agricultural life under Government direction, an effort which by conservative estimates would require a force of at least 50,000 new Federal inspectors.
My views are almost exactly the opposite from his. I oppose the concept of Federal involvement wherever it is reasonably possible to find other solutions. My trust reposes first in the creativity of 180 million free Americans whose energies and instincts for the right course have brought into being the most advanced, the most abundant, the most classless society in human history.
I prefer, in the first instance, private activity. Then, where it is advantageous for people to deal collectively with their problems, I prefer action at the local level, then the State level, and finally at the Federal level. There are, of course, many, many things which require Federal action, and I believe in taking Federal action when it is needed without hesitation. But the fundamental difference between us is at the starting point. He starts by wanting Federal control. I start by actively seeking some way to exercise private or public leadership to get the job done from the people up rather than from the Government down.
Accordingly, I have a deep conviction that his programs would take us from a direction which in the past 7½ years has given America the greatest peacetime progress, the greatest peacetime prosperity in all our history. I am deeply convinced that his programs are regressive and would lead us backward to economic misfortunes which we have known in the recent past and from which we have moved safely away.
I do not believe, as apparently the Senator does, that we can tag away or cheapen the people's money to support indiscriminate Federal expenditures without seriously weakening our free enterprise system.
And that is exactly what he proposes to do. The programs which he and his platform would launch would cost, by conservative estimate, a total of $15 billion a year more of the people's money. This means, as I have shown, that two-thirds of this increase would have to be paid by those earning under $10,000 a year, even if the Government confiscated all income above that amount.
A Kennedy administration would inescapably mean higher taxes, higher prices and a return to objectionable Government controls.
It would endanger the stability of our free system at the very moment when our gigantic strength is most needed in the world struggle.
The very threat of the policies, domestic and foreign, which Kennedy has espoused as a contender for the American Presidency has evoked concern in every area of the free world and outright dismay in many.
It is with great confidence that I say I am certain at the conclusion of this campaign that the people are acutely aware of this difference between us - that they know what it means to them individually - and that they distrust and will reject the Senator's statist concept.
My feeling is equally strong about the public intuition regarding our policies abroad. It is not unusual, since this has been the pattern throughout the world, that those who believe in the efficiency and superiority of state action are less sensitive to the. implications of state tyranny which is the great challenge that America faces in the world today.
We simply cannot retreat from the hard situations in an attempt to ease the pressures on us from Communist aggressions.
But retreat is clearly the implication of the two sharply focused issues which have arisen between us in this campaign. The details of these, on which the voters have heard endless discussion, are not the important aspects of these particular issues. In each case it is the principle which undergirded the argument between Senator Kennedy and myself which is vital.
On Quemoy and Matsu, he argues in favor of open and avowed retreat from a position which he finds uncomfortably close to the Communist menace.
It is as though we could settle something by the mere act of withdrawing to a new position. Closeness is not the evil. So long as they hold their aggressive design for world conquest, the Communists will always be close. The more we withdraw the closer and the faster they will come on.
It this were an isolated example of the Senator's foreign policy, I would say he had opened the issue in our second debate for nothing more than political opportunism. But this is not the case.
He has indicated the same tendencies on a point of conflict with the Soviets of far more critical nature - Berlin. And in Berlin, of course, the forces of freedom are not only close to the Communist forces, they are surrounded by them.
Mr. Kennedy thought that it was vital to preserve the negotiations at the summit conference in Paris, which had as the first item on the agenda Mr. Khrushchev's demand that Western forces withdraw from Berlin. Mr. Kennedy would have preserved these negotiations even at the price of having the President apologize to Mr. Khrushchev for attempting to safeguard by the U-2 flights our own Nation and the free world from Soviet surprise nuclear attack.
An apology in those, circumstances could only have been intended to hold Mr. Khrushchev at the conference table in Paris. But we can be certain it would not have held him long. Looking back, the one thing most would agree on is that the Soviets had no intention of reaching agreement unless it was on their terms. Mr. Khrushchev, who hammers his shoe on the desk at the United Nations Assembly meetings and shouts imprecations at the heads of member governments is not interested in diplomatic niceties. His purpose is to force us out of Berlin. The apology would have had to be followed soon by demands for still more concessions on Berlin if the American purpose was simply to keep Mr. Khrushchev in Paris.
Such, of course, was not then, and should never be, the American purpose. We should be prepared, as we have been prepared, to negotiate and negotiate again with Mr. Khrushchev whenever it will serve peace and freedom. But we cannot ever serve either peace or freedom by retreating before his threats.
In honest bargaining, concession must be matched only by concession. Only thus can negotiations be fruitful. A one-way concession would be suicidal.
These have been the fundamental issues between the Senator and me. They have had a full and attentive hearing by the American electorate. I am certain the electorate will deliver its verdict in a volume that will prove beyond any reasonable doubt the deep concern of the Nation in this vital election.
If the outcome is as I confidently expect it to be, I will undertake the grave responsibilities of the Presidency with vigor and deep awareness of the inadequacies of any one human for the task ahead.
The future will be a test of faith and strength for all Americans. It will be a time for rededication by the Nation and its leaders. On us - our courage and our faith - can depend the issue of peace and freedom for the rest of this country. On us could depend the future, itself.
Richard Nixon, Statement of the Vice President of the United States on Campaign Issues, Los Angeles, CA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/273768