Richard Nixon photo

The President's News Conference

September 26, 1969



THE PRESIDENT. [1.] Mr. Cormier [Frank Cormier, Associated Press].

Q. How do you feel about the various proposals to propose an arbitrary cutoff time on our military presence in Vietnam?

THE PRESIDENT. I have considered a number of those proposals within the administration and, of course, have noted some of the references that have been made recently in the Senate in that regard. I know they are made with the best of intentions. However, it is my conclusion that if the administration were to impose an arbitrary cutoff time, say the end of 1970, or the middle of 1971, for the complete withdrawal of American forces in Vietnam, that inevitably leads to perpetuating and continuing the war until that time and destroys any chance to reach the objective that I am trying to achieve, of ending the war before the end of 1970 or before the middle of 1971.

I think this is a defeatist attitude, defeatist in terms of what it would accomplish. I do not think it is in the interest of the United States.

I also believe that even though these proposals, I know, are made with the best of intentions, they inevitably undercut and destroy the negotiating position that we have in Paris. We have not made significant progress in those negotiations. But any incentive for the enemy to negotiate is destroyed if he is told in advance that if he just waits for 18 months we will be out anyway. Therefore, I oppose that kind of arbitrary action.



[2.] Q. Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Hensley [M. Stewart Hensley, United Press International].

Q. At the time or shortly after your appointment of Mr. Burger [Chief Justice Warren Earl Burger] to the Supreme Court, it was said that you hoped, insofar as possible, to avoid appointments which would become controversial. The nomination of Judge Haynsworth [Clement F. Haynsworth, Jr.] has become controversial to a certain extent.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I understand.

Q. Has this become controversial enough to lead you to withdraw the nomination of Judge Haynsworth?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I do not intend to withdraw the nomination of Judge Haynsworth. I studied his record as it was submitted to me by the Attorney General before I sent the nomination to the Senate.

I have also noted the various items that have been brought up during the course of his hearings in the Senate. I still have confidence in Judge Haynsworth's qualifications, in his integrity. I believe that the Senate should approve him. I believe it will. I believe that he will be a great credit to the Supreme Court when he becomes a member of that Court, I hope in the fall term.


[3.] Q. Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Hornet [Garnett D. Horner, Washington Evening Star].

Q. What is your view, sir, concerning the student moratorium and other campus demonstrations being planned for this fall against the Vietnam war?

THE PRESIDENT. I have often said that there is really very little that we in Washington can do with regard to running the university and college campuses of this country. We have enough problems running the Nation, the national problems.

Now, I understand that there has been and continues to be opposition to the war in Vietnam on the campuses, and also in the Nation. As far as this kind of activity is concerned, we expect it. However, under no circumstances will I be affected whatever by it.


[4.] Q. Mr. President, does the "heartland" theory, which is outlined in the book, "The Emerging Republican Majority,"1 by an assistant of John Mitchell coincide with your own approach toward strengthening the party?

THE PRESIDENT. I regret to say, and I hope this does not discourage sales of the book, which I understand are quite good, that I have not read the book. My own views with regard to the Republican Party have been often stated in backgrounders and also in public sessions.

1By Kevin P. Phillips, published by Arlington House, New Rochelle, N.Y., 1969 (482 pp.).

I believe the Republican Party should be a national party. I don't believe in writing off any section of the country. I have attempted to make our appeal nationally, to the South, to the North, the East, the West, and to all groups within the country.

To the extent that the book advocates theories that are inconsistent with that principle, of course, I would disagree with it.


[5.] Q. Mr. President, sir, many civil rights groups are saying that your policy on school desegregation amounts to a retreat from the Supreme Court decision of 15 years ago.2 Some even say that this amounts to an effort to build a party base for the Republicans in the South.

2Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kans. (347 U.S. 483), May 17, 1954.

Where do you stand on school desegregation and how much more time do you think districts that haven't complied ought to have?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, on this very difficult problem, I would say first that we have had a lot of criticism from the South insofar as our integration and desegregation policies are concerned, as well as from the groups to which you refer.

It seems to me that there are two extreme groups. There are those who want instant integration and those who want segregation forever. I believe that we need to have a middle course between those two extremes. That is the course in which we are embarked. I think it is correct.

As I evaluate the situation this year, I found that there are twice as many schools that are desegregated at the opening of this term as was the case at the opening of the term a year ago. I think that is progress.

Now one other point that should be made. I do not consider that it is a victory for integration when the Federal Government cuts off funds for a school and thereby, for both black and white students in that school, denies them the education they should have. That is not a victory for anybody. It is a defeat for education.

I believe, therefore, that that particular device should be used as we currently are using it: only when it is absolutely necessary for the purpose of achieving our objective of desegregated education. We are for it, but we are going to avoid both extremes.


[6.] Q. You told an audience in Houston last fall 3 that you opposed reduction of the oilmen's depletion allowance. Do you still oppose it?

THE PRESIDENT. As a matter of fact, I not only told the audience in Houston that, but that has been my position since I entered politics in California 22 years ago. It is still my position.

3At a campaign rally in Miller Memorial Amphitheater on September 6, 1968.

I believe that the depletion allowance is in the national interest because I believe it is essential to develop our resources when, as we look at the Mideast and other sections of the world, many of our oil supplies could be cut off in the event of a world conflict.

On the other hand, I am a political realist. I noted the action of the House of Representatives in reducing the depletion allowance. Also, my primary concern is to get tax reform--the tax reform which we submitted in April, which goes further than any tax reform in 25 years. We need that tax reform above everything else.

Some of the items that I recommended, the House did not follow my recommendations, and the same will be in the Senate. When the bill comes to my desk, I intend to sign that bill, even though it does not follow all of my recommendations-provided that it does not require a revenue shortfall. That is more than I believe the Nation can stand.


[7.] Q. Mr. President, can you tell us the reasons behind Russia's prolonged failure to respond to your proposal for prompt negotiations on strategic arms limitations?

THE PRESIDENT. We are trying to explore those reasons. Mr. Rogers [William P. Rogers, Secretary of State] met with Mr. Gromyko [Andrei A. Gromyko Soviet Foreign Minister] on Monday. He will meet with him again on next Monday. He has no answer except a suggestion-and I don't think I am divulging any confidences in this respect--that we may expect an answer in the near future and that it is likely to be a positive answer.

Now, why the answer has been delayed is a question really that would have to be asked of those who have control of policy in the Kremlin.


[8.] Q. Mr. President, would you please tell us when you are going to make some real, honest-to-goodness changes in Personnel in these bureaucrats who have been in power through many generations, who are still wasting the taxpayers' money, and making errors on the war and policy and promoting their friends, who are unqualified, to high jobs? I refer particularly to the office in the Pentagon of Assistant Secretary of Defense [for Installations and Logistics] Barry J. Shillito.

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know the gentleman, but after that question, I am going to find out who he is very soon.


[9.] Q. Mr. President, could you give us some insight into your thinking, sir, as to the difference between the situation that required Supreme Court Justice [Abe] Fortas to resign and the recent disclosures concerning Judge Haynsworth?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, since the matter is still before the Senate committee, I am not going to comment on the specifics that are being considered by that committee.

I will simply stand on my statement that I was aware generally of Judge Haynsworth's background, of his financial status, before he was appointed. I had confidence then in his integrity. I think the Senate committee will overwhelmingly agree with that opinion.


[10.] Mr. Healy [Paul F. Healy, New York Daily News]

Q. Mr. President, Congress has always taken a very dim view of the idea of automatically adjusting the social security benefits to the cost of living, as you proposed yesterday. As a political realist, do you think you can change their mind on this?

THE PRESIDENT. I am going to try. As far as that particular proposal is concerned, there are some who reach a different conclusion for a reason that all of us will understand. They believe that it is an automatic escalator as far as inflation is concerned, and discourages those fiscal policies that would control inflation by assuming that we are going to have to raise social security because we have to accept the idea we are always going to have inflation.

My view is different. I have found in examining this situation that where the Congress must always act to see to it that those on social security keep up with the rise in the cost of living, that the Congress tends to act either too late or with perhaps even overreaction to the situation.

I believe this is the sensible, sound way to do it and I think that it will be deflationary rather than inflationary in the long run.


[11.] Mr. Kaplow [Herbert Kaplow, NBC News]

Q. How are you doing, Mr. President, in your efforts to end the Vietnam warp

THE PRESIDENT. Not as well as I would hope. I will not be doing as well as I would hope until the war is ended. I would point, however, to some progress.

We point first to the fact that we have announced that 60,000 Americans will be returned from Vietnam.

We point, second, to the fact that as a result of that and other actions, that 50,000 Americans who otherwise might have been drafted before the end of the year will not be drafted.

In addition to that, we find that infiltration, which tells us a lot about the enemy's future capabilities, looking at the first 9 months of this year, is two-thirds less than it was in the corresponding period last year.

We find that American casualties are down one-third from what they were over the same 9-month period last year.

We find also that on the negotiating front, that the United States has made far-reaching and comprehensive peace offer, a peace offer which offers not mutual withdrawal of forces, internationally guaranteed cease-fires, internationally supervised elections in which we will accept the result of those elections and the South Vietnamese will as well, even is a Communist government, and by making that offer we have reversed the whole tide of world public opinion.

I noted when I was at the U.N., found no significant criticism of the U.S policy. Now is the time for Hanoi to the next move. We certainly have it.

There is one thing, however, which I should emphasize that is not negotiable. We will talk about anything else. What is not negotiable is the right of the people of South Vietnam to choose their own leaders without outside imposition, either by us or by anybody else. We believe that that limited goal must be one that we must insist on. We believe it can be achieved, and we believe that if we stay in this course and if we can have some more support in the Nation--we have a lot of support, but even more support in the Nation--for this steady course, the enemy then will have the incentive to negotiate, recognizing that it isn't going to gain time; that it isn't going to wait us out.

Once the enemy recognizes that it is not going to win its objective by waiting us out, then the enemy will negotiate and we will end this war before the end of 1970. That is the objective we have.


[12.] Mr. Theis [J. William Theis, Hearst Newspapers]

Q. Going back to Mr. Cormier's question about the Vietnam cutoff, Senator Goodell, who will be a candidate next year, is providing the vehicle for a new round of Senate hearings on this subject. Will this either embarrass you as a Republican President, or other Republican candidates next year?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Theis, I, of course, can't control the course of Senate hearings, particularly in the Foreign Relations Committee. On the other hand, as far as those hearings are concerned, I believe that a discussion in the Senate of this matter, an open discussion, in which all the consequences of this very well-intentioned statement by Senator Goodell, all the consequences of it, the fact that it inevitably leads to the conclusion that the United States is going to be stuck in Vietnam until the end of 1970, that there is no hope of ending the war before then, that when that comes home, I think the Senate will overwhelmingly reject the Goodell proposition 4

4Senator Charles E. Goodell of New York on June 25, 1969, proposed legislation requiring withdrawal of all U.S troops from Vietnam by the end of 1970.


[13.] Mr. Lisagor [Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News].

Q. Mr. President, does the insistence upon self-determination in Vietnam as an indispensable condition mean that you will support the present Thieu regime there until there is a negotiated settlement or until there are elections to change that regime?

THE PRESIDENT. It means, Mr. Lisagot, that the Thieu regime is there because of the result of an election, and until the people of South Vietnam have another opportunity to vote, I think that the United States should not reverse that election mandate. That is the answer that I think is only appropriate under the circumstances.


[14.] Mr. Loory [Stuart Loory, Los Angeles Times]

Q. Going back to your response to the school desegregation question, it is now 15 years since the Supreme Court made its decision. How much longer do you think school segregation should be allowed to exist anywhere in the country?

THE PRESIDENT. Only as long as is absolutely necessary to achieve two goals-to achieve the goal of desegregated schools without, at the same time, irreparably damaging the goal of education now for the hundreds of thousands of black and white students who otherwise would be harmed if the move toward desegregation closes their schools.

Q. Mr. President, in connection with the school desegregation, one of the most controversial cases has been the action that the Government took in Mississippi in deciding to ask for a further postponement of some of the school integration there.

There have been published reports that Senator John Stennis of Mississippi informed the administration that if the school integration went through there, he might not be able to handle the administration's defense bill, and that you, yourself, made the decision.

Would you tell us whether these reports are true, whether Senator Stennis did so inform the administration, and your connection, if any, with this Mississippi case?

THE PRESIDENT. Senator Stennis did speak to me, along with several other representatives from Mississippi, with regard to his concern on this problem. But anybody who knows Senator Stennis and anybody who knows me would know that he would be the last person to say: "Look, if you don't do what I want in Mississippi, I am not going to do what is best for this country?'

He did not say that, and under no circumstances, of course, would I have acceded to it.

With regard to the action in Mississippi, that action was taken by this administration because it was felt that better than cutting off the funds with the disastrous effect on the black and white students affected by that, the better course was the one that we did take--the one which gave more time to achieve desegregation without impairing education.


[15.] Q. There has been growing concern, sir, about deepening U.S. involvement in the combat in Laos. If you could confirm that, would you also say whether this runs counter to your new Asian policy?

THE PRESIDENT. There are no American combat forces in Laos. At the present time, we are concerned by the North Vietnamese move into Laos. There are 50,000 North Vietnamese there at the present time, and more perhaps are coming.

As you know, the American participation in Laos is at the request of the neutralist government, which was set up in accordance with the 1969 Accords, which were agreed to, incidentally, by Hanoi, Peking, and the Soviet Union. That was during the administration of President Kennedy, negotiated by Mr. Harriman [Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs].

We have been providing logistical support and some training for the neutralist government in order to avoid Laos falling under Communist domination. As far as American manpower in Laos is concerned, there are none there at the present time on a combat basis.

Q. Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Potter [Philip Potter, Baltimore Sun].

Q. You say there are no combat forces in Laos. How do you regard the airmen who bomb the Ho Chi Minh Trail from bases in Thailand and Vietnam? Would

Q. You say there are no combat forces

THE PRESIDENT. When we consider the situation in Laos, I think President Kennedy in his first major television speech, which we all remember, in 1961, put it very well. He pointed out that Laos was potentially the key to what would happen in Thailand as well as in Vietnam and the balance of Southeast Asia.

Now, Laos relates very much to Vietnam, because the Ho Chi Minh Trail runs through Laos. It is necessary, under those circumstances, that the United States take cognizance of that, and we do have aerial reconnaissance; we do have perhaps some other activities. I won't discuss those other activities at this time.


[16.] Q. Mr. President, yesterday in Chicago, your Assistant Secretary of Labor, Mr. Fletcher [Arthur A. Fletcher, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Wage and Labor Standards], tried to hold some hearings about getting more blacks into the construction unions, and he was prevented from doing so.

I wonder if you could tell us, first of all, your reaction to that specific situation in Chicago, and, secondly, your general feeling about getting more blacks into the trade unions?

THE PRESIDENT. Relating first to the second part of the question, it is essential that black Americans, all Americans, have an equal opportunity to get into the construction unions. There is a shortage in construction workers.

The interest of the Nation requires this, apart from the matters of simple justice which are involved.

Second, in this respect, we have, as you know, the Philadelphia Plan. We have had our problems in Pittsburgh which are presently being discussed through our mediation, at least discussed, although it is still a very volatile situation. And now, of course, we have the problem in Chicago.

We intend to continue through the Department of Labor to attempt to make progress in this field, because in the long-run, we cannot have construction unions which deny the right of all Americans to have those positions.

America needs more construction workers, and, of course, all Americans are entitled to an equal right to be a member of a union.


[17.] Q. Mr. President, on the subject of inflation, a number of economists have said that they do not believe the administration can take the steam out of the economy without exerting pressure on specific price increases, such as the auto increase, the steel price increase, and the others.

Are you considering taking such steps, or do you feel that the corner has already been turned in the battle on inflation?

THE PRESIDENT. I would take those steps if history told me they would work. I would point out, however, that the previous administration tried, through jawboning, as it is called, to put the blame on business for price increases; the blame on labor for wage increases.

In 1966, the guidelines died. They died because when Government, which is the primary agent for increasing prices, fails to do its job, Government asking labor and management to do theirs simply won't work. It is hypocritical, it is dishonest, but most important, it is ineffective, because since 1966, as you will note, in 1966, 1967, 1968, despite all of the calling of the people to the White House, telling them to hold prices down, hold wages down, prices continued to escalate.

Now, we have attacked the source of the problem. We have cut the budget by $7 billion. We have monetary restraints. We have asked for an extension of the surtax rather than its complete elimination. And these basic policies, which go to the core of the problem, are beginning to work, as Mr. McCracken pointed out in his speech in Detroit on Monday 5

5Chairman Paul W. McCracken of the Council of Economic Advisers spoke before the Economic Club of Detroit on September 22, 1969.

Now that the Government has set the example, I believe that labor and management would be well advised to follow the example. I am not jawboning and telling them to reform themselves, when we refuse to reform ourselves. But I do say this: that labor and management, labor that asks for exorbitant wage increases, management that raises prices too high, will be pricing themselves out of the market.

Anybody who bets on a continuing inflation will lose that bet, because our Government policies are beginning to work and we are going to stick to those policies until we cut the rise in the cost of living.


[18.] Q. Mr. President, my question concerns the draft, sir. The National Council to Repeal the Draft contends that your draft cut is a fraud, because the summer draft calls were inflated to allow for a preplanned cut. Would you comment, please?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't consider that charge as one of merit. I know of no inflation in the summer draft calls. I would also point out the fact that when you look at the statistics with regard to the withdrawal of our forces from Vietnam, with regard to the reduction of our forces around the world, it is quite obvious that we don't need as many through the draft. That is why we did it, and not for the reason that is suggested here.


[19.] Q. Mr. President, does the change of leadership in Hanoi, brought about by the death of Ho Chi Minh,6 show any sign at all to you, sir, of any change of intent either in combat or in Paris, on the part of the enemy?

THE PRESIDENT. Not yet, and we would expect nothing yet. Each of our systems of government has a problem. The major problem in a Communist system of government is the problem of succession and the North Vietnamese are going through that.

6President Ho Chi Minh of North Vietnam died in Hanoi on September 3, 1969

Immediately after a change of leadership, there is a tendency for uncertainty and rigidity as the contest for power goes on. We think that is going on within North Vietnam at the present time. However, looking to the future, as new leaders emerge, as they look at the consequences of past policy and the prospects for future policy, and as long as the United States holds to its course, I think the prospects for a possible change are there.

I am not predicting it. I am not trying to raise false hopes. I am only suggesting that since there is new leadership, we can expect perhaps some reevaluation of policy.


[20.] Q. Mr. President, when do you plan to make Governor [Nelson A. Rockefeller's report on Latin America public, and what is the main thrust of his recommendations to you?

THE PRESIDENT. During the time that I have been in Washington, and a few of you--not many--have been in Washington longer than I, in and out, I have found that we have had at least eight reports on Latin America.

And in talking to my Latin American friends in the diplomatic corps, they have begged me, "Please don't study us," because they have said, "All you do is study us and make headlines with the words and then have no actions."

Now, when I set up the Rockefeller task force, I made one commitment to him, to which he completely agreed: that he would make the report to me, and what we would try to do is to make our actions make the news rather than the words make the news.

I have already met with Governor Rockefeller. There are some very exciting recommendations in his report which we are going to adopt. I am going to meet with him for an extended visit tomorrow at Camp David, along with the Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America, Mr. [Charles A.] Meyer.

Then later in this month--I mean later in October--we will be making a major new pronouncement on Latin American policy, and a number of the Rockefeller recommendations will be in that announcement.


[21.] Q. Mr. President, 2 weeks ago today you had a major meeting with your top advisers and people directly involved in the Vietnam effort. I don't think we have had a report, as such, on that meeting. I wonder if there was a focus such as the death of Ho Chi Minh, or just what was it all about?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, naturally much of what was discussed in that meeting could not be appropriately discussed in a public forum like this. We looked over the military situation, the political situation in South Vietnam. And naturally we speculated privately, and I would never speculate publicly, as to what might happen with the change of leadership.

We did determine, however, that there were some good signs on the horizon: the failure of the enemy to be able to launch a summer offensive which everybody had predicted; the fact that the infiltration rate was down by two-thirds, which means that the possibility of an offensive this fall has receded, we took note of that; the fact that this Vietnamization program, despite some problems, was moving forward; and that political and economic stability in the South, despite some significant problems, was going forward.

All of these matters were taken into consideration. Generally, I would not like to leave the impression that this was an overly optimistic report, because I believe in looking at Vietnam and all of our problems in a very realistic, down-to-earth manner.

But I would say this: I think we are on the right course in Vietnam. We are on a course that is going to end this war. It will end much sooner if we can have to an extent, to the extent possible in this free country, a united front behind very reasonable proposals. If we have that united front, the enemy then will begin to talk, because the only missing ingredient to escalating the time when we will end the war is the refusal of the enemy in Paris to even discuss our proposals. The moment that they start discussing those proposals, then that means that we can bring the war to a conclusion sooner than if we just continue on our present course.

M. Stewart Hensley, United Press International: Thank you very much.

Note: President Nixon's seventh news conference was held in the East Room at the White House at 12 noon on Friday, September 26, 1969. It was broadcast on radio and television.

Richard Nixon, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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