NOVEMBER 23, 1960
NEW YORK—The question most frequently asked me at press interviews these days is this: "Do you believe there will be any 100 days' honeymoon with Congress for the new President in view of the fact that his margin of victory is small in the popular vote?"
I would like to point out that President-elect Kennedy's prestige with the Senate and House, whose members are very sensitive to votes and who analyze them very carefully, will be very high, for he had a tremendous vote to overcome. If you look at what President Eisenhower's vote was in 1956 you will gain some measure of Senator Kennedy's achievement. In view of all the handicaps he had to overcome, he really accomplished a near-miracle.
President-elect Kennedy is going to give vigorous and decisive leadership to the White House. Using all the power of the Presidency and aided by the legislative experience of Vice-President-elect Lyndon Johnson, he will be careful to start out by doing first things first—not without a fight perhaps, but I have a feeling that we are going to have a President who rather enjoys a fight.
I read one of the columnists in one of Monday's newspapers who asked whether "the country will respond with energy and courage to a true picture of the national situation." I am usually a pessimist, but when it comes to trusting our people once they know the truth I have never doubted for a minute that they would face up to whatever the situation was and meet it magnificently.
You cannot meet a challenge till you know what the challenge is. But I think in the next few months we are going to know, in clear and unmistakable terms. And, once we know, the answer of the American people will be adequate to whatever the needs of the situation are.
It is reassuring to know that a real new appraisal of our whole defense program is under way, but I am particularly anxious that our leaders and the country in general realize that the military reorganization, which is essential, is only a part of the real defense of the United States.
The Soviet attack is a three-pronged attack—constantly increasing production, largely in heavy industry for military purposes, plus economic and cultural plans for domination of those areas of the world that can be reached only in that way. No mention probably ever will be made of compulsion, of future control, but the picture of what the Soviets can offer will be an extremely attractive one.
Moscow's Friendship University, recently opened, to which the Soviets pay transportation and where they not only give free tuition but free living, seems to be a wonderful method of persuasion.
I hope, therefore, that much thought will be given to what I call the complete defense picture of the U.S. Anything short of that will not meet our real situation.
Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold has served notice on the members of the United Nations that the treasury was extremely low. Even meeting salaries was going to be difficult unless some of the big powers come up with their payments.
It is entirely understandable, of course, that everyone would like to wait until our new administration is installed. This is probably one of the reasons that moved Sen. Mike Mansfield to say that he believed an elected President should take office two weeks after his election. Actually, however, the present administration cannot wait to pay the bills for the upkeep of the U.N. army in the Congo, and I think it is very important that we and the other bigger nations pay our share of the costs of this army and pay promptly.
The problems in the Congo are sufficiently delicate and require such forethought and concern on the part of the Secretary General and the staff that they should certainly not be obliged at the same time to worry about the budget.