Carter, Kennedy, and Legionnaires
James Earl Carter, whose middle name could as well be "persistence," got a renewed and more pointed endorsement from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy here Thursday. And he uncompromisingly spelled out his national defense policy to an American Legion convention that had already, in effect, endorsed two major facets of that policy.
United States military strength is, and will continue to be, adequate, the President insisted in an address to the legionnaires. Appearing on the heels of independent presidential candidate John Anderson (Tuesday) and Republican standard-bearer Ronald Reagan (Wednesday), Mr. Carter defended his refusal to embark on a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union. Such a move, even on a limited basis, would be "irresponsible," he told the listeners in an auditorium that had a noticeable number of vacant seats.
Carter asserted that "the destructive power of the nuclear arsenals is already adequate for total devastation," and "it does no good to increase that destructive force in search of a temporary edge or in pursuit of superiority."
Earlier Wednesday morning, on his arrival at Boston's Logan International Airport, the President was welcomed to Massachusetts by Mr. Kennedy in what could be a significant move to demonstrate unity within Democratic ranks. There has been considerable comment to the effect that the "unity showing" at the rostrum of the Democratic National Convention in New York last week by Kennedy was considerably lacking in efficacy.
In attempting to eliminate doubts as to the measure of his support for Carter , Kennedy told newsmen at the airport: "I am determined . . . that he be re-elected as President."
The senator, who was to have been out of the state at the time, rearranged his schedule. The move may have slowed, if not thwarted, efforts by Congressman Anderson to attract Kennedy supporters to his campaign.
In his Legion speech, Carter said: "Security, honor, and peace are the goals we seek," and "creative and responsible diplomacy," as well as military preparedness, is needed "to enhance strategic strategic stability" in the world.
He defended his decision to scrap development of the B-1 bomber and to go forward instead with the cruise missile program. Also cited among prudent defense decisions of his administration was the go-ahead with plans for the MX missile, which he said would be superior to other defense weapons and less costly.
Minutes before the Carter talk the Legion members approved a national security resolution including a strong endorsement of the MX missile and the draft "to restore American military power."
The President was loudly applauded when he declared that "fighting for ourselves is not enough" -- that the American effort should include both "strengthening our freedom and the freedom of others."
Reviewing the US military presence in various parts of the world, Carter said that "additional steps are being taken to protect our interests in the Persian Gulf." He did not specify these steps, however, beyond explaining that the standby force in the Indian Ocean is being increased.
Denying that the defense program has been underfunded during his administration, the President maintained that, although more money could have been spent, "it could not have been spent more wisely."