Echoes of Nixon in Bush's Kansas State Speech?
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Now, when President Bush defends his national security policies today, some people will listen for echoes of another president who spoke at the same place decades ago. The place is Kansas State University.
Here's NPR's Don Gonyea.
DON GONYEA reporting:
It was September of 1970. Richard Nixon was the President. The war was Vietnam. In America it was the month that Jimi Hendrix died and that the Mary Tyler Moore Show made its debut on network TV. And on the 16th of September, Nixon traveled to middle America in search of a friendly audience. In those days presidential audiences were not so carefully screened for protestors and some hecklers got in, but they were overwhelmed by waves of loyalty to the President and his cause.
In the speech, Nixon warned of terrorism in the world, specifically Palestinian hijackers, and he lashed out at an anti-war movement that had grown larger, and in some cases, more violent in the wake of the Kent State shootings that same year, and of revelations about the U.S. expansion of the war into Cambodia. Nixon told his campus audience that the voices of destructive and violent protest and some universities were drowning out the majority.
(Soundbite of applause)
Former President RICHARD M. NIXON: My text at this point reads, The voices of the small minority have been allowed to drown out the responsible majority. That may be true in some places, but not at Kansas State.
(Soundbite of cheering and applause)
GONYEA: Nixon said he knew that many Americans were upset about the war, but he rejected calls for an immediate end to the conflict.
Former President NIXON: (unintelligible) troubles and I understand why (unintelligible) troubled many of our young people today, the war in Vietnam. We know the slogans. I heard them often. Most of them simply say end the war. There's no (unintelligible) between Americans on that. All of us want to end the war and we are ending this war (unintelligible).
(Soundbite of applause)
GONYEA: Nixon's speech was part of the Landon Lecture Series, named after legendary Kansan, Alf Landon, who was the Republican nominee for president in 1936, losing in a landslide to Franklin Roosevelt. In the two years after his Kansas State speech, Nixon was able to withdraw enough U.S. troops from Vietnam and get close enough to a peace deal that he carried 49 states in 1972. The war in Vietnam, however, did not end until 1975 when South Vietnam succumbed to the Communist-ruled North Vietnam. Today, President Bush also speaks under the Landon Lecture Series banner, becoming the third sitting U.S. president to do so. He, too, speaks as public discontent with a foreign war persists. Mr. Bush will likely cite progress in building democratic institutions in Iraq, including recent elections. He is also expected to push for renewal of Patriotic Act powers that stalled in Congress at the end of last year and to defend his controversial order allowing domestic spying, eavesdropping on e-mail and phone conversations inside the U.S.
The president insists that such surveillance is legal and necessary to foil terrorist plots. His critics counter that a special court is in place to get search warrants even after the fact to make sure such spying does not violate civil liberties. Hearings on the President's domestic spying program will begin in Congress in two weeks. President Bush's audience today will consist of several thousand students and a contingent of soldiers from nearby Fort Riley.
Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.
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