Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Televised Panel Discussion With a Group of Republican Women, San Francisco, California.

October 21, 1958

Q. Mr. President, I am a rancher. Proposition 18, the so-called right-to-work measure, is one of the major issues in our California campaign, and your name has been used quite frequently in regards to this proposition. How do you stand on it, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, here I think I ought to try to straighten out the record completely, because I am naturally speaking of this from the national viewpoint rather than the State.

Section 14B of the Taft-Hartley Act gives to each State the right to determine how they want to have labor unions organized; that is, whether they are union shop or open.

Now I have always supported 14B because I believe in the right of each State to determine for itself what it wants to do. The State determines what its form of government is. As long as it is republican, for example, it can have a unilateral legislature or a bicameral, if they want. In the same way, I think they have the perfect right to decide what they want to do. So I have taken no stand, as far as California is concerned. I merely say section 14B should remain in the law.

Q. Mr. President, I am a citizen by choice--I like to call myself. I have been driven out of my native Hungary by the communists, and I am thrilled to raise my three children in this country. I have a deep concern about our government, that it should be a good government, and about the true beliefs of our candidates. Could you tell me, sir, what a woman could do to make sure that our government is run by responsible, truly responsible people?

THE PRESIDENT. You have asked a question that of course expresses the philosophy that I think every good citizen should observe. We cannot be as close to prominent candidates as their families are, or their close friends, and you can't know that much about them. But you do know about their records.

Normally, anyone that's a candidate for high office has quite a public service record behind him. You know what his beliefs are. You know something, even, about his private life, because we have very inquiring photographers and newspaper people in this country, and they observe these things and begin to give you a picture. And then finally you hear people talking. You know whether they are sincere.

I believe one of the great benefits that has come to us from the television--when anyone goes before that television camera--I really believe the normal observer has pretty clear, in his or her mind: is that individual sincere?

And I think you can't ask for much more in a candidate than that he is reasonably intelligent, has a good character and is sincere in his hope of serving our people.

Q. Mr. President, many people feel that we are taking a great risk in helping Nationalist China defend Quemoy and Matsu. Why are we so concerned about the defense of these two little islands?

THE PRESIDENT. I should say, first of all, we ought to get our understanding of this clear as to the facts. The Formosa Resolution that was passed in 1955 requires the President to assist for the defense of Formosa; but other areas--like outlying areas, Quemoy and Matsu, and so on-he must decide whether or not any attack upon them is merely a part of an attack on Formosa. And he has no authority or no responsibility for defending the islands as such.

Now we should be perfectly clear in our minds: we are not concerned about two little bits of real estate in the world. Of course we are not.

But I know of only one way for freedom to defend itself against the inroads or the threats of communist dictatorship, and that way is to stand by principle.

Now we have stated and I have heard the foreign Minister and the Prime Minister of Britain state, and others from the free world, this particular, specific principle: we will not permit communist territorial expansion by force.

And the day we desert that principle, where do you go next? We say we are not concerned in these two islands, and why should we be concerned in formosa, why should we be concerned about the Philippines or any place else? When you stand on principle, you have got a definite place to stand. And I think we should be firm and strong, standing on that principle. But I add this: the United States should and always does extend a hand of friendship gladly, as long as it will be received sincerely by the individual nations that they are meeting.

So any possibility of reaching that kind of a meeting of minds with the communists would certainly bring about negotiation, conciliation that would settle this problem in some way--I don't know exactly what the solution would be, but you can settle it.

I merely repeat, then: we stand on principle, but seeking always for a peaceful solution.

Q. Mr. President, I know the Republican Party has always been a real friend to my people. But the Democrats are saying and are charging the Administration with expense of business for the little man [sic]. Now could you please comment on that?

Well, sometimes a charge seems so farfetched to the individual being charged that he is almost speechless in trying to answer. But I will.

First of all, the biggest complaints I have heard from business have been from what is called big business. Many firms have said that our Attorney General's office--Department of Justice--is just too eager in pushing anti-trust laws.

Personally, I think he is doing exactly what the law requires, because that is what he is supposed to do, and I think it is his duty. But nevertheless, we have had many complaints. And one of the reasons that has been given to me for the lack of money that has come into the Republican exchequers at all levels--city, State, federal--is that we have been too harsh on big business.

Let's take the other side of the picture. Under this Administration, the Small Business Administration was set up on a permanent basis. We have put a good deal of legislation before the Congress in the way of favorable taxes and all sorts of programs that will help the small business man in such things as--if he gets some second-hand equipment, he can write it off just as fast as second-hand equipment as the big business can with new equipment, that sort of thing.

So I think that the charge that small business has been deserted, or abandoned, or ignored by the administration, is just completely without foundation. And because the man making the charge realizes of course that there are more small businesses than there are big businesses, so it is easy to make charges--it ought to sound popular to them, I guess. It's just not true.

Q. Mr. President, I am a housewife and an ex-school teacher. What about the missile program? The Democrats say that the administration has really fumbled the ball. Won't you tell us what you think about it?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am a soldier, and I am on sound ground now. [Laughter]

After the war--1945--was over, there was a good deal of interest in missiles in our government, but there was no interest in long-range ballistic missiles. The ballistic missile is defined, of course, as one that goes by its own power, and not with wings, whereas an aerodynamic one is one that has wings and also runs maybe with a rocket engine or even the conventional engine.

Now this program was completely ignored during the prior administration Indeed, in those years, there was never more than one million dollars spent in any single year in research and development of long-range ballistic missiles. We did do work in the Army, the Navy and the Air force--something on short-range missiles; that is, the defensive type against anti-aircraft, air-to-air, that kind of thing. for the Army the short one was called the "Corporal," the "Sergeant," the "Redstone," and so on. But the whole problem of the intermediate and long-range ballistic missile was completely ignored.

Now when I became President, I got a group of scientists together and I asked them to look into this problem, because like many of the rest of us, the technical things of this kind, technical possibilities, I would not know about; although I had experienced in World War II--the thing that excited my curiosity--the results of the V2 German rockets which for a couple of hundred miles would come in and were a very terrible thing that we had to suffer. So I did have this interest in the thing.

The scientists went into this very thoroughly, what they believed to be the activities of the Soviets, our capabilities, technical and every other kind. finally in early 1955 they told me "We are behind and we have got to get busy." I urgently recommended this. On the very day that they gave me that recommendation, I put those programs on the first priority, so far as talent, time, and expenditures were involved in the Defense Department. And from that moment on, we have been spending hundreds of millions annually, and not as I say, below a million before that time. The result is, we are rapidly filling the gap that existed; and in some ways, I think that our scientists have already achieved what we would call even more than equality, particularly in types and kinds, even if not in numbers.

I believe that the United States, if it can be proud of anything, it is the record of our scientists in these last three and a half years in this field.

Q. Mr. President, both my husband and I are nisei. We are second-generation Americans. Some say that while maintaining peace, we are sacrificing principle and losing face. What is your feeling on this matter?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would say this: in six years, I cannot recall a single international problem that has been approached on any basis except that of principle. I see no profit to take each of these problems, whether it be Korea, Viet Nam, Iran, Trieste, Austria, Quemoy, any of them, and try to do it on the basis of expediency. Because no matter how you solved the problem then, you would have a new problem, you would have a new set of principles, you would have a new set of criteria that you would have to apply to the new problem.

So I believe that the basic problems of peace, our refusal ever to use force in the settlement of international problems, our insistence that we must not abandon weak countries to the threat of force and to the use of force, our readiness to bring not only our support to the United Nations, but to bring the problems of the international world to the United Nations--all of these things are agreed upon by all Americans on a non-partisan basis. These are the basic principles that are employed when you have to attack one of these problems, no matter where it occurs or when it occurs.

So I think the charge that we are abandoning principle in favor of expediency has no foundation in fact whatsoever. Indeed, at times, when you stand for principle, you are not going to be very popular, because someone has a particular solution to a little problem; but in the long run it is the only way he can do it.

Q. I would like to know, Mr. President, what the Republicans have done to provide relief--tax relief to individual families?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the first thing is--a very simple answer--the largest tax reduction ever accorded the United States in one law was in 1954, I believe it was, when we took seven and a half billion dollars off the tax take from American citizens. And that went clear across the board. It applied to small families, to small businesses, and to some extent to the bigger ones.

But remember, we had all sorts of war-time taxes, trying to pay for the conflict as we went along as well as we could--and I think that was right--but every bit of those taxes is reflected in the pocketbooks of the small family. for this reason: suppose you reduced the tax on a corporation, don't you get something a little cheaper? Your tax whether directly or indirectly comes right down to the consumer in the United States. When you come down to it, all taxes are paid by all citizens that use the things that our economy produces.

Q. There is so much talk about the need for reforms in labor legislation, why hasn't the Administration been able to do more about it?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the first thing I am going to do is send you two bills. I submitted to Congress one in 1955 and the other in 1956. We have a man I consider to be the greatest Secretary of Labor that the United States has ever had. He is human, he is interested in people, he is sensible, he stands on logic and reason and right. Now he and I have worked hours over bills that we believe would do something to protect the men and women that with their hands and their minds produce the wealth of this country. We believe that all this business of improper control, of corrupt practices on the part of leaders, can be eliminated, but we must have the bills to do it. And I would be delighted to send you some of them, to read the details of what we tried to do. I expect to do it.

Q. Mr. President, I would like to know whether the recession is really over and what are we going to do to avoid having another such recession?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, again we have to be rather clear--things are never black and white in human affairs. If you are having a boom, as we had here for some years, there is always something going down a little bit. When things are going down, there's always something that stands out pretty well, and successful. As a matter of fact, in this last year, you will recall--you, Madam, as a rancher will remember--that while we were talking about a recession starting over a year ago, farm income is over twenty percent above last year's.

Now I believe that in a free economy you are always going to have a cycle that has its corrective measures, sometimes in pushing up and sometimes in going down. I believe, first of all, the federal government has in the effort to produce a stability in the economy--rather than a tremendous rise, then a boom and bust--it has a great responsibility to try to stabilize the value of your dollar and stabilize activities, even as it goes progressively higher. I do not believe the federal government should try to control our industries and our economy. for example, when I came into the Presidency, there was a whole series of wartime controls still over the economy. The first thing we did was to get those removed. And I believe the economy has been advantaged by that.

Now I say the function of the federal government is to lead, to show, to present the facts, to give a helping hand when a helping hand is needed, but not taking these crazy things of plunging our children into billions and billions of dollars of debt on the theory that we are going to stop a slight recession now, when indeed the very projects that are proposed will not get started until after the recession is over. And I don't mind telling you, there was one single Senator proposed bills himself in this last session that would have saddled you, and your children, with 35 billion dollars of expense--most of it debt.

Now, that's the kind of thing that I think must not be done. I think the federal government should lead, help, provide the research, statistics, show what is happening--but let's not try to domineer.

Q. Mr. President, I am a business woman; I sell automobiles. Frequently in my contact with business men and women they charge that we are losing the support of our allies. Now that is not true, is it?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, not at all. Now, when you have a specific problem that comes up, let's remember we are free countries. Let's take Suez. We are free countries, and we develop public opinion in our country, and frequently the attitude of government will be exactly as that of our public opinion; that is, it is a very powerful thing. If I take a decision that the mass of people do not approve of, that is a weak position. But with respect to the Suez situation--when there was no fighting--we said that we ought to try to negotiate that out, and we did not believe that there was any sense or virtue in any country starting a military operation to settle the Suez problem.

Now in this case, therefore, Britain which didn't want to do this, and France which didn't want to do this, and Israel, we disagreed. But I assure you, those people today, as far as I can see, are just as good allies as we have ever had before in our lives. Every single one of these individuals--heads of government--are my personal friends. I know that they believe that I am sincere, and therefore I think that friendship does not mean that I always have to agree with everybody else just because they have a notion. But if we both have respect for each other, that we have sincerity in our hearts, I don't believe there's any loss of friendship. And as a matter of fact, I am quite sure of this, when I see the number of people--heads of state, heads of government, that like to come to our country, come over here and visit, I know they are not doing it in hate of us.

Q. Mr. President, I would like to know what you think of the possibility of preserving the peace in the Near East?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, whenever you have an international problem, I want to point out that you never have a clean-cut quarrel between, let's say, you and me--there are always third parties involved. Now we have had a great respect and a very great record of friendly association with the Arab peoples for many, many years. The Arab people have been very upset about the development of Israel. I don't know whether it's so much because of the present development of Israel, but they see Israel as a very dominant little nation, very progressive, and they see its borders expanding and more people coming in, so that when we start to talk about any problem with the Arabs, whether it be boundaries, help of any kind, mutual association in development of the countries, or their oil, or anything else, always comes in this question of their complete--you might say--distrust for Israel, and their enmity to Israel.

Now it has been our effort to ameliorate that, and I think we have done something toward it. So I think that an exciting influence towards war out there has been somewhat ameliorated. And our own position, again based on principle, of refusing to countenance the destruction of little Lebanon merely because it was weak, and taking measures to do it, I think that has done something to promote stability, at least for the time, in the Mid-East.

Now I am not going to be a prophet, but I do believe that the prospects look better than they have for a long time, for some kind of stable solution in that area.

Q. Mr. President, I would like to ask why the cost of living keeps going up?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as a matter of fact, it isn't only a fact, but it is a serious fact. Now I want to say something on the consequences first. It is not merry that you are going into your pocketbook to get more for a loaf of bread, but as this occurs, you are cheapening your money-inflation.

You are counting, let us say, on living some day on a pension, or the insurance policy you have taken out. Now if you put dollars in today, let's say it's worth a hundred cents, when you many years later begin to live on that money and it's only a forty or fifty or a sixty-cent dollar--this is a very serious thing. And you must remember, our economy has become one that in its mass is living and expecting to live out its old age on some kind of pension plan or insurance plan.

Therefore, the keeping of this dollar on a stable basis is just about as serious a thing as I can think of. Now the first thing we have got--

Announcer: Mr. President, excuse me for interrupting. We have sixty seconds time to spare--

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much. I would like to try to answer this, because it is so important. One thing that goes right into your family budget is an unbalanced federal budget, because it cheapens dollars. And that federal budget means this: we are spending, somewhere, too much money. We ought to be getting it down, and I would like the help of every woman in this whole darn United States in helping us get those federal expenditures down; because in that way those expenditures will be less, and one of the inciting causes of inflation would be removed as we get back again on a balanced budget.

Note: This program, sponsored by the National Republican Committee, was televised from the Civic Auditorium at 11:30 a. m.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Televised Panel Discussion With a Group of Republican Women, San Francisco, California. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/234144

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