Produced by Lawrence E. Spivak.
Guest: Senator John F. Kennedy Democrat, Massachusetts.
Panel: Elie Abel, Detroit News; John Chancellor, NBC News; Ed Folliard, Washington Post; Lawrence E. Spivak, Regular Panel Member.
Moderator: Ned Brooks.
Mr. BROOKS. The presidential campaign is entering
its final 3 weeks with the issue of foreign policy commanding much attention
from both candidates. Senator Kennedy, who is our guest today, will begin
this week's activities with a tour of southern and central Ohio. It will
be his seventh visit to that pivotal State. Climaxing the week's campaign
will be the fourth debate on Friday between Senator Kennedy and Vice President
Mr. SPIVAK. Senator Kennedy, there has been a lot of heat generated on the issue of Quemoy and Matsu, and now, judging by the newspapers, you and Mr. Nixon and President Eisenhower seem to be in agreement. I'd like to ask you whether you think you are in agreement on the issue or whether there is still a difference among you?
Senator KENNEDY. I have always been in agreement with the President's policy toward our treaty commitments and toward Quemoy and Matsu, as defined in public statements of the administration since 1955 and, also, as defined by administration spokesmen in executive session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I have never disagreed with that position. My judgment was - and I think it was very clear - that a week ago during our second debate and in his speech in Albuquerque following that second debate Mr. Nixon did seem to disagree with the administration. As I gathered his statements at that time he wanted to extend our commitment, our treaty commitment, which now binds us to the defense of Formosa and the Pescadores, to cover the islands of Quemoy and Matsu.
Yesterday Mr. Nixon announced that he agreed with the President and the administration. I agree with the President and the administration, so that, I think - it is my hope, as I would not want any issue to endanger the security of the United States, I would certainly feel that in the tradition of bipartisanship no area in the field of foreign policy should be used for political advantage. If we both agree with the President, in my opinion, the matter is then closed.
Mr. SPIVAK. Senator, the New York Times in its analysis today says that "The essential difference remained - that Mr. Nixon would hold the islands and Mr. Kennedy would attempt to disengage the United States from them." Is that a fair statement?
Senator KENNEDY. No, but - what is the administration position? The administration position since 1955 has been that we would defend Formosa and the Pescadores, that we would defend Quemoy and Matsu if there were an attack which was part of an attack on Formosa and the Pescadores. If the attack was not part of an overall attack on Formosa and the Pescadores, then our treaty commitment would not bind. That is the official statement of our position since 1955.
Now in the spring of 1955, the President sent Walter Robertson, who was Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, and Admiral Radford to see Chiang Kai-shek in an attempt to persuade him to withdraw the Nationalist troops from Quemoy and Matsu. Chiang Kaishek refused to do so. Again off and on since 1955 we have attempted to persuade Chiang Kai-shek to lessen his troop involvement there. In fact, at the time when our conversations were taking place at Geneva and at Warsaw with the Chinese Communists, we discussed the problem, the possibility of the United Nations coming into these islands, of a de facto cease fire coming into those islands. So that, if I may say, in my judgment the position of the administration has been that we should defend these islands if it is part of an attack. Meanwhile, they have attempted to persuade Chiang Kai-shek to reduce his commitment. Chiang Kai-shek has been unwilling to do so, and because we didn't want to break morale on Formosa and because we have been unable to persuade him to withdraw, the situation has remained in flux and rather uncertain. But I agree with the position that we should meet our commitments there, we should meet our commitments to Formosa and the Pescadores, and we should attempt to continue the negotiations which are now going on to persuade if possible the United Nations to come in there, a cease-fire in the area, or whatever it may be, so that the reason that there may be some ambiguity in the matter is that there is some ambiguity in the treaty and in our statements. But I don't want the Chinese Communists to be under any misapprehension. I support the present administration policy. I support the administration policy toward Quemoy and Matsu over the last 5 years. It, is the same position I take. The point is Mr. Nixon wanted to extend our commitment to guarantee those islands regardless of whether or not the attack was part of an overall attack on Formosa and the Pescadores.
Mr. SPIVAK. The generalissimo has said it is a matter of morale, and he says, "If we lost those offshore islands, even the U.S. 7th Fleet couldn't defend Formosa."
Senator KENNEDY. That is the reason we have been unable to persuade him to withdraw from those islands, but within the last 24 hours I have read administration statements from the highest source before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as late as 1959, and these statements and the statements in 1958 during the time of the bombardment indicate very clearly, as does the mission of Walter Robertson and Admiral Radford, the attempt to persuade Chiang Kaishek to lessen his commitment on these islands.
The President in his press conference in 1958 said that it was unwise to move so many troops to these islands as one of these islands is 2 miles from the coast of China.
Mr. SPIVAK. Senator, as a practical thing, though, if the islands are attacked and the generalissimo fights for them as though they were part of the Formosa business, because it is going to hurt morale if he loses them, just how will the United States at any time be able to disengage itself from the whole business?
Senator KENNEDY. That is why for 5 years this matter has been involved in this very difficult way. There has been no doubt that administration policy since 1955 has been to persuade Chiang Kai-shek to lessen the number of his troops on these islands. He has been unwilling to do so, and that is why we are still involved in the subject of Quemoy and Matsu, not because these islands are strategically defensible, not because they are easy to hold, but because Chiang Kai-shek has been unwilling to withdraw, and we have been unable to persuade him to do so. But I want to make it clear, Mr. Spivak, that the administration has never suggested that we should extend our treaty commitment to these islands. Mr. Nixon in his speech in Albuquerque said we shouldn't yield 1 inch there, and yet for 5 years we have on and off attempted to persuade Chiang Kai-shek to lessen his troop commitments. We have talked about the United Nations coming in. We have discussed the matter with the Chinese Communists. There is no doubt of this record nor would the Secretary of State nor the President say that it wasn't so, because it is so.
Now, I feel if Mr. Nixon supports administration policy in this area, I do too. Therefore, I am prepared to move on into a discussion of other issues. This issue in my opinion could properly be closed. I would not want the Chinese Communists to think we are divided over our support of our treaty commitments and their implications in this area. And as an American I am prepared - I voted for the treaty in 1955 - I am prepared to meet that commitment, but I don't want anybody to be under any illusions that - it is a situation which is not wholly satisfactory from our point of view. Admiral Yarnell said these islands weren't worth the bones of a single American soldier, and, therefore, if Mr. Nixon has now retreated to the support of the administration's position, in my judgment then that could close, properly, the matter unless he wishes to continue it.
Mr. CHANCELLOR. Senator, do you think you will have any more success with Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek or with the Chinese than the administration has had?
Senator KENNEDY. No one can tell what the future will be. It is a difficult problem. We are not happy about the situation in Quemoy and Matsu. As I say, one of these islands is only 2 miles from the nearest coast of China. Therefore, they can be bombarded, as they are, by artillery daily. To hold them might require nuclear weapons. There is to the Pescadores a whole reach of open sea, 75 miles, to Formosa more than 100 miles, so it is a difficult problem. But if he will not leave, we don't want to see an attack take place under the impression that the Chinese Communists might have that we won't support Chiang Kai-shek. So that is why this situation still hangs after 5 years, and I would think it would be a difficult matter for the next President, and I don't want to say anything in this campaign which will make either Mr. Nixon's responsibility or mine more difficult in January.
Mr. CHANCELLOR. Senator, in that context, you said yesterday, "Let the debate return now to the real issues of the campaign." Yet today you have continued to discuss Mr. Nixon's attitude on the---
Senator KENNEDY. Because last night I said I was prepared to close, in my official statement. Then last night after he said he supported the President, in his speech given last night, in his release, he attacked me for my position on these islands and said that I was working against the interest of the country and all kinds of statements. I don't know what the issue now is, providing he supports the President's position; so do I, but I think that is an entirely different position than he took a week ago. In my opinion if we are both in support of the President and there are great issues which disturb our country, it would seem to me that I would be prepared to move on to the discussion of those issues. I saw in the morning paper, the New York Daily News, that Mr. Nixon proposes to discuss these two islands for the next 3 weeks. What are we discussing now? As long as he will support the President and I do, I think that in the interests of bipartisanship I would not endanger the situation in that area by attempting to drag it into a political campaign. That is my view, and I am prepared to rest on it and make this the last word.
Mr. CHANCELLOR. If we could move on, then, to another issue, it seems that every year in the United Nations we get closer to the admission of Red China. Have you given much thought to what your reaction as President would be if during your administration Red China won a seat in the United Nations?
Senator KENNEDY. I would be opposed to the admission of Red China as long as Red China's official foreign policy is the belief in the inevitability and desirability of war. The whole dialectic that they are now engaged in with the Russians is on this question of the desirability of war as a method of communizing the world. It is rather difficult to vote to admit Red China, when her foreign policy officially is based on that complete hostility to the United Nations. That is the issue. If they withdraw on that, other Communist countries are in, and, therefore, of course, our position might change, but it is rather difficult to consider changing that position. They may be voted in, but not with our agreement if that is their official, announced policy and, in fact, is the cause of a major dispute with the Soviet Union - between the Chinese and the Russians on that issue.
Mr. ABEL. Senator, I would like to bring you back home for a minute, if I may. Some of your supporters in the labor movement are distributing a four page broadsheet which seems to suggest that a vote against you is a vote for bigotry. I have in mind a reprint from the United Auto Workers' paper, Solidarity, which has been widely distributed in Michigan and some other industrial States. The key theme seems to be "Which Do You Choose, Liberty or Bigotry" - a vote for Kennedy being a vote for liberty, presumably. Do you believe this is a proper appeal for your supporters to the people?
Senator KENNEDY. I haven't seen it, so I would be reluctant to characterize it. I have attempted in all my statements - I don't think there is any doubt of that - to try to keep the religious issue from becoming a matter of dispute between the parties or between the candidates. That is my view. I think that the candidates in the two political parties are devoted to the Constitution and, therefore, in my judgment, with all these other matters disturbing us, this should not be an issue, on one side or the other.
Mr. ABEL. Returning for a moment to the general argument made here, which we have seen in other States as well, which you might call a form of bigotry in reverse, do you repudiate that kind of appeal to the voters?
Senator KENNEDY. Yes. I haven't seen the article, but let me just say that I have said in my acceptance speech, as I have said on many occasions before, that I hope no one would vote for me, either for me or against me, because of my religion. I have said that consistently and I mean it because it is an important election. There are very serious issues which divide us, and I don't think this is one of them, my religion or Mr. Nixon's religion. After all, I thought that matter was all settled in the Constitution when it provided for separation of church and state, and it provided that there should be no religious test for office. So I would hope we could move on. They did it much better than we can do. We can't improve on the Constitution, so I think we should sustain it.
Mr. FOLLIARD. Senator, you have been criticizing the inflation in the Eisenhower years, the shrinkage of the dollar. What would you do to halt inflation, to give us a stable dollar?
Senator KENNEDY. I don't feel that we have been able to maintain such a limit on the increase in the cost of living which would warrant the administration pursuing with such vigor the tight-money, high-interest-rate policy. I think that has been deflationary, on the one hand, which has helped cause the recession of 1954, intensify the recession of 1958, contribute to the slowdown of 1960. On the other, it has not held down the cost of living very satisfactorily. I would, therefore, feel that a greater stimulation of our economy to provide fuller use of our facilities, fuller use of our manpower, and I would hope a competition, vigorous use of the antitrust laws and all the rest, would provide sufficient price competition to maintain a reasonable stability in the dollar. You may get some inflation because historically we have gradually had inflation. The problem is to keep it in balance with our increase in our productive capacity and increase in our gross national product.
Mr. FOLLIARD. The other day up in New York you said that one of the great political myths in our time is the notion that there is a conflict between the Democratic Party and the business community.
Senator KENNEDY. That is correct. That is right.
Mr. FOLLIARD. Businessmen don't seem to think that is a myth.
Senator KENNEDY. That is right.
Mr. FOLLIARD. At least as I understand it, most of them are Republicans.
Senator KENNEDY. Yes, that is so right.
Mr. FOLLIARD. If elected President, what would you do to reassure the business community ?
Senator KENNEDY. Let me just say that if the President of the United States - -his basic domestic objective will be to maintain full employment in the country. For two reasons: First, because he wants people to have jobs, and, secondly, because it is only if our economy is booming that we can get the revenues to provide for our defense and all the rest of the program. So he has to provide, try to provide - and his party - an atmosphere by which business will flourish. They are the employers. So in my opinion, they may disagree, businessmen, with the policies of our party, but the policies of our party are directed to encouraging full employment in the United States.
We could not possibly sustain ourselves as a country; we could not possibly, be successful as a party; we could not implement our programs, if business was bad and people were being laid off and you had a recession; that is failure. So all I say is that we are going to be committed to a policy of full employment which will mean a policy where the private enterprise system flourishes. That is why I think businessmen are wrong - particularly small businessmen; I feel we are far more helpful to them than the Republicans are. The Republican policy favors big business because the whole tight high-interest-rate policy helps big business, not small business.
Mr. FOLLIARD. One other thing, Senator: Why are you so reluctant to criticize President Eisenhower? I notice in your speeches you make jibes at other Republicans or other Republican Presidents; you talk about, "Keep cool with Coolidge."
Senator KENNEDY. Yes, Mr. Harding.
Mr. FOLLIARD. "Two chickens in the pot" with Hoover.
Senator KENNEDY. That is right.
Mr. FOLLIARD. And you take a crack at Landon and Dewey. Then suddenly when you get to Eisenhower, there is a sort of a silence there. Do you think it would be politically dangerous to criticize President Eisenhower?
Senator KENNEDY. I feel that President Eisenhower, first, isn't in the tradition of McKinley, Harding, Coolidge, Landon, Dewey. That is No. 1.
Mr. FOLLIARD. You say he is not in the tradition?
Senator KENNEDY. He is not in that tradition. He came into the Republican Party sort of sideways. In fact, there was some question in 1948 as to whether he was going to run as a Democrat, or not. That is No. 1. No. 2 I have a high regard for President Eisenhower, personally. I have been critical of the leadership of this administration. I feel that our power, vigor, prestige, has not kept up the requirements of our times in the last 8 years. I have been very critical in every speech I have made of that. President Eisenhower has been the President. He must bear his measure of responsibility. I am not involved in a personal dispute. I admire the President personally, but I do disagree with the policies that his administration has followed. Basically, however, the question is for the future. That is the question Mr. Nixon and I--- we are not going to undo the last. 8 years, and the question now is, Should the country entrust the leadership to the Democratic Party and to me as President, or should they entrust it to the Republican Party and Mr. Nixon? That is the issue.
Mr. SPIVAK. Senator Kennedy, you and Vice President Nixon seem agreed that the United States is today the strongest military power in the world. Since he believes, also, as you do, that every necessary step must be taken to keep it so, why do you continue to make an issue of our military strength?
Senator KENNEDY. We disagree very greatly. He says our prestige has never been higher.
Mr. SPIVAK. I'm talking about our military power.
Senator KENNEDY. No, but this all ties up with prestige. When I talk about prestige, I am talking about the image of the United States abroad, militarily, economically, politically, socially, scientifically, educationally. I believe in all those areas our relative position is not satisfactory. We have sufficient momentum, because we had an atomic monopoly for a while and then a hydrogen monopoly, and we had a great airlift capacity. We have sufficient momentum to carry us through to the present time as a strong military power. But the rate of increase, the rate of military growth, is not in our favor. That is what I disagree with. In fact, we have been living off our fat for the last 3 or 4 years militarily. The Soviet Union made the great breakthrough in space and in missiles, and, therefore, they are going to be ahead of us in those very decisive weapons of war in the early 1960's. What is true militarily is true economically; their rate of increase is greater. It is certainly true scientifically, and in the image they give to the world of a country on the move.
Mr. SPIVAK. But you agree with him that our military power today is greater than any other power in the world?
Senator KENNEDY. I would say.
Mr. SPIVAK. I think you have said that.
Senator KENNEDY. I have said that. It is not a question of agreeing with him.
Mr. SPIVAK. You said that.
Senator KENNEDY. I do believe that, today, October 1960, we are the strongest power in the world. But the point is, when are the curves going to meet? The Soviet Union's relative power has been growing steadily in relation to ours, including its military power, especially in the field of missiles.
The point I make is, by 1961, 1962, and 1963 is the crucial time. Are we going to be ahead then? I am not sure we are. Unless we make a greater effort, we are not going to be in 1962 and 1963 the most powerful nation in the world.
Mr. SPIVAK. But I am pointing out he says just as you say - that you are going to make every effort to stay ahead.
Senator KENNEDY. Yes, but his whole emphasis in his campaign - and I have read all of his speeches - is that our power is the highest; our prestige is the highest; we have never had it so good; this administration's influence at the United Nations, and all the rest; that we are at the ascendancy. There is no note of urgency in the messages which Mr. Nixon has been giving in the last 2 months. They have been reassuring, and I don't think these are times when we can reassure ourselves that we are stronger, better, that our power and influence is growing. I think that is the basic issue that separates us. I think that Governor Rockefeller takes the same view I did. His speech in June 1960 was as critical of the administration or more critical than anything I have said. I don't think there is the slightest doubt that the Rockefeller brothers reports and his speeches prior to the Republican convention struck the exact same note of urgency that mine does, but Mr. Nixon hasn't struck that note.
Mr. CHANCELLOR. Prime Minister Macmillan yesterday endorsed the idea of the summit conference to be held next spring. Therefore, we have the Russians demanding one, and the British seem leaning toward one. If you are the man who will have to attend the summit conference, what would be your views on it?
Senator KENNEDY. I am hopeful - in fact, I feel it would be essential that there should be negotiations at the secondary level on these matters which divide us: Berlin, disarmament, cessation of nuclear tests, control of outer space-disarmament of outer space. I would feel that at the foreign ministers' and at the ambassadorial level there should be conferences which would indicate we are going to accomplish something. Otherwise there is a confrontation and then the parties separate, and then what? Unless we are going to meet with an effort to settle at least partially some of these questions or ease the tension, then, the summit serves as nothing more than a gigantic spectacle which disappoints the world.
Mr. CHANCELLOR. Would that be your view, sir, on the general trend in diplomacy toward what we call personal diplomacy on the part of leaders of states? There has been a great deal of it in the past few years, and some people have criticized it.
Senator KENNEDY. No, I think that it is valuable. I would think the next President of the United States should certainly talk with General De Gaulle and with Dr. Adenauer. Certainly he should see Mr. Macmillan and the others, and I would hope - the free world, I think, could stand a good deal of communication in the early part of 1961 on the question of NATO, which is a very serious one, the French position in NATO, and all the rest. When we go to meet with the Communists, however, and Mr. Khrushchev, who has shown himself to be so volatile, bellicose, and belligerent, I would like to feel we are moving in a definite direction with some understanding in advance. .
Mr. ABEL. Senator Kennedy, both parties have been talking civil rights for a great many years. Congress has passed two bills in the past 4 years, and yet thousands of citizens are still deprived of their voting rights. Would you favor use of the 14th amendment, section 2, a tool that to my knowledge has not been used in our time, to penalize any State that denies its citizens the right to vote by reducing its congressional representation in direct proportion to---
Senator KENNEDY. No, I think that the best way is to implement the Constitution and the laws which Congress passed, which, I think, give the Executive very clear power. I don't feel that those powers have been used very effectively, either in the 1957 or the 1960 act, but in my judgment the, Executive has full power to provide the right to vote. I don't think there is any legal limitation now, any lack of weapons by the Attorney General or the President to compel the right to vote if a major effort is made, and in my judgment a major effort should be made in 1961 to make sure that there is no subterfuge, that everyone has the right to vote, that no tests are used which deprive people artificially, based on race, of the right to vote. I feel a real effort should be made in this field in 1961, and I think it would have the consent, pretty much, of the entire country.
Mr. FOLLIARD. Henry Cabot Lodge made a speech in Harlem and promised that a Negro would be appointed to the Cabinet if he and Mr. Nixon won. Then he got down to North Carolina, and, as I understand it, sort of ate his words. You remarked on that yesterday. How would you feel about a Negro in the Cabinet if you were successful on November 8 ?
Senator KENNEDY. I think we ought to pick the best people we can and the best for each of the tasks. If the best person is a Negro, if he is white, if he is Mexican descent or Irish descent or whatever he may be, I believe he should get the job. But I do believe we should make a greater effort to bring Negroes into participation in the higher branches of government. There are no Federal district judges - there are 200-odd of them; not a one is a Negro. We have about 26 Negroes in the entire Foreign Service of 6,000, so that particularly now with the importance of Africa, Asia, and all the rest, I do believe we should make a greater effort to encourage fuller participation on all levels, of all the talent we can get - Negro, white, of any race.
Mr. BROOKS. Gentlemen, at this point I think I am going to have to interrupt. I see that our time is up. Thank you very much, Senator Kennedy, for being with us.