Public Papers of Richard Nixon, 1970

Author: Richard M. Nixon  | Date: June 11, 1970

Remarks to Delegates Attending the Annual United States Attorneys’ Conference.
June 11, 1970

Mr. Attorney General, Mr. Deputy Attorney General, and ladies and gentlemen:

I think you will agree we are giving you a very warm welcome to Washington today. [Laughter]

You are here in the historic Rose Garden at this point. You will wonder where the roses are. They come later in the summer. But for all the ladies who I know will be interested in how these are done: A little earlier we had tulips and now we have what you see here, and the roses will be planted later on. So year around, whatever it is, we have a very historic and a very beautiful site for meetings of this type.

I hope you have enjoyed your tour of the White House and I want you to know that I feel that to welcome you and to say a few words to you is very important in what is sometimes a very busy day for whoever occupies this office.

The Attorney General said local lawyers for the President. You are the local lawyers for all the people of country. I know that the great majority of you are Republicans. Traditionally,’: that is the case where the U.S. Attorneys are concerned.

On the other hand, you realize that your jobs do not involve partisanship. They involve the interests of all the people. You are enforcing not a Republican law or a Democratic law, you are enforcing the law of the United States. And you are enforcing it in an even-handed way for all the people. We want you to feel that way; we want you to act that way.

I met recently, as the Attorney General will recall, with the leaders of the American Bar Association when they were here. We were discussing the problem of restoringsome respect for law, something that is very close to the hearts and minds of all of us throughout this country regardless of our partisanship.

I made a point that I think we should always keep in mind; that if we are to have respect for law in this country, we must have laws that deserve respect.

Now this means not only that the laws that are passed by the Congress and the State legislatures and the city councils must be evenhanded and fair to all but it means that those who administer the law, those who enforce the law, must deserve respect.

When a law is not enforced that creates disrespect for law. But a law that is unfairly enforced also creates disrespect for law.

So I say to you: We want you to enforce the laws; we want you to enforce them fairly; we want you, as the Federal lawyers, to give leadership in your local communities to all of those who have this responsibility, so that we can establish throughout this country respect for our courts, respect for the law, law which is fair and even for all people. This is the goal of this administration and it is the goal, I trust, of those who are the President’s and the people’s lawyers, who you are.

One other point that I would like to make: You are going to be here for a few days and you are going to find that in a number of fields, particularly the field of narcotics and dangerous drugs, we need a message to get back to the communities.

We have done a lot of studying of these subjects here at the Federal level and we find over and over again that there is a need for information to get back to the communities to deal with these problems.

I trust you will listen to the briefings that I have heard. They are very, very impressive. I always learn something new in every one of them. I hope then you will go back and carry this message, not only in terms of enforcing the laws but again of informing the people.

Speak in the high schools, because it is there, or the junior high schools or in the colleges and get the message through to our young people about the dangers that are involved here because you can tell them that I feel—this will be helpful in getting the message across—that this is one of the major problems confronting all Americans today, and particularly young Americans, the tremendous growth in the use of narcotics without knowledge as to what it can do to the mind, let alone to the body and the physical condition of men and women.

One other point I would make: You have done a good job with the tools you have. You will have noted that the rate of crime in this country went up 16 percent in 1967. It went up at the rate of 19 percent in 1968. That rate of increase of crime has been turned around in 1969, turned around, I should point out, partly by the leadership that you provide.

We realize that crime is local and State as well as Federal as far as responsibilities for dealing with it are concerned. But it is turned around because of newer, and I think, more effective leadership coming from the Attorney General, coming from you.

We want you to continue to give that leadership but you need some new tools. You need them and, throughout the country, our local law enforcement officials need those tools. The Federal Government needs to act in many areas.

This administration, for a year and a half, has had pending before the Congress of the United States, 13 pieces of legislation dealing with organized crime, dealing with narcotics, dealing with pornography, dealing with dangerous drugs, dealing also with the use of explosives.

You saw, for example, the problem that was referred to in New York by Mayor Lindsay, in which he pointed to the bomb that was used against the police department in New York in one of the precincts there, which indicates how dangerous this problem has become.

Here we have this legislation, 13 pieces of legislation, before the Congress. For 18 months most of the legislation has been there and not one of those bills has reached the President’s desk for signature.

Now let me say, I am a Republican. Most of you are. I understand partisan politics. I understand it in an election year. I can understand the Congress dragging its feet about some things. After all, that is the way the political game is played.

But crime, respect for law, dealing with crime, these are issues that are above partisan politics and I think it is time for the Congress to get off the dead center on which it presently has been operating, to get these bills out of committee, to give the Members of the House and Senate a chance to operate, to get them down here on the President’s desk for signature so that you out in the field can have the tools to do the job.

I promise you that if we get the tools from the Congress, we will use them and we will reduce this rate of crime. We have done a good job without having new legislation. We will do a better job with more legislation.

But let’s remember where the responsibility is: It is right down there in the Congress. They need to provide those tools for us and then we will do the job. And to me, I think, perhaps the major failure of this Congress has been its failure to act on any of the crime legislation that has been before them for 18 months.

Partisanship is no excuse for it, and I do not charge partisanship in this instance. What is involved here is that in this very important area where Democrats write me as much as Republicans about their concern about narcotics, about organized crime, about dangerous drugs, about street crime, where I get letters from all over the country, where according to polls this is the number one issue that concerns people of all parties in their homes and in their communities—for the Congress to fail to act and go back to the people will be something that the people will remember.

So we ask for the Congress to act. We hope you can use your influence with both your Democratic and Republican friends in Congress to get action while you are here, within, of course, all of the rules that you have to follow.

Thank you very much.
We wish you well.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:38 a.m. following a brief introduction by Attorney General John N. Mitchell. The Deputy Attorney General was Richard G. Kleindienst.


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Chicago: Richard M. Nixon, "185 Remarks to Delegates Attending the Annual United States Attorneys’ Conference.," Public Papers of Richard Nixon, 1970 in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Richard Nixon, 1970 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), P.1168 495. Original Sources, accessed December 9, 2023,

MLA: Nixon, Richard M. "185 Remarks to Delegates Attending the Annual United States Attorneys’ Conference." Public Papers of Richard Nixon, 1970, in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Richard Nixon, 1970 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), P.1168, page 495. Original Sources. 9 Dec. 2023.

Harvard: Nixon, RM, '185 Remarks to Delegates Attending the Annual United States Attorneys’ Conference.' in Public Papers of Richard Nixon, 1970. cited in , Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Richard Nixon, 1970 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), P.1168, pp.495. Original Sources, retrieved 9 December 2023, from