John F. Kennedy photo

The President's News Conference

July 17, 1963

THE PRESIDENT. I have two announcements.

[1.] I have a brief statement to make on the progress of the negotiations in Moscow. After 3 days of talks we are still hopeful that the participating countries may reach an agreement to end nuclear testing, at least in the environment in which it is agreed that on-the-ground inspection is not required for reasonable security. Negotiations so far are going forward in a businesslike way. It is understood, of course, that under our constitutional procedures any agreement will be submitted to the Senate for advice and consent. It is also understood by our allies that the British and American representatives are not negotiating on other matters affecting their rights and interests. Any matter of this sort which may come under discussion will be kept open for full allied consultation.

Finally it is clear that these negotiations, if successful, should lead on to wider discussions among other nations. The three negotiating powers constitute the nuclear test ban subcommittee of the Geneva conference, and if the present negotiations should be successful, it will be important to reach the widest possible agreement on nuclear testing throughout the world. But all these questions are still ahead of us and today, while the negotiators are at work, I think we should not complicate their task by further speculation. And for that reason I do not expect to respond to further questions on this subject.

[2.] Second, I received a few hours ago the preliminary budget results for the fiscal year which ended June 30. The cash deficit was $4.1 billion, just half as large as we estimated some 6 months ago. The deficit in the administrative budget was $6.2 billion, $2.6 billion less than our January estimate. In both cases the deficit is below the level of the preceding fiscal year. The Treasury and the Budget Bureau will issue a more detailed statement later in the week.

Since the budget went to Congress, we have been able to reduce our request for 1963 supplemental appropriations by nearly $250 million.

Nearly every Federal agency reduced its expenditures below the figure estimated last January. Secretary McNamara announced last week that his campaign to cut costs in the Defense budget had produced 1963 savings of more than a billion dollars. We have also lowered net expenditures hundreds of millions of dollars by applying the policy of substituting private credit for public credit through the sale of Government-held mortgages and other similar assets.

Tax collections are also better than we estimated in January. But we still have too many idle plants and jobless workers. The recent improvement in business conditions has contributed to these higher revenues. This demonstrates again the 'point which I emphasized in my tax message to the Congress. Rising tax receipts and eventual elimination of budget deficits depend primarily on a healthy and rapidly growing economy.

The most urgent economic business before the Nation is a prompt and substantial reduction and revision of Federal income taxes in order to speed up our economic growth and wipe out our present excessive unemployment. A prosperous and growing economy is a major objective in its own right. It is also the primary means by which to achieve a balance in our Federal budget and in our balance of payments.

[3.] Q. Mr. President, in view of the increased contact between the Vatican and the Iron Curtain countries, do you feel it would be fruitful at this time to consider setting up some regular channel of communication between the United States and the Vatican?

THE PRESIDENT. No. It seems to me that the present methods of communication, which are the obvious ones and have been in effect, I suppose, for a great many years-any time anyone wants to get in communication, it's possible to get messages to the Vatican. The Embassy in Rome, I am sure, would be available. It doesn't seem to me that there is any need for changing procedures. I don't think there is any lack of information or communication back and forth.

[4.] Q. Mr. President, referring back to your reference to the tax cut, we wonder, could you appraise the status of your legislative program in Congress today, particularly would you want the Congress to dispose of the civil rights proposals before they begin concentrating on the tax bill?

THE PRESIDENT. I would--no, I think that the tax bill and the civil rights bill are both very important and also they are very complex pieces of legislation, and it is taking-Congress has been taking a good deal, amount of time, the Ways and Means Committee, in considering the tax bill, 6 months now. The civil rights bill, of course, in its latest form only went up about 6 weeks ago, 5 weeks ago, and that will take, I should think, a substantial amount of time. But they are both important pieces of legislation and I'm sure the Congress will be at it for a number of weeks to go. I would think--I would not attempt--this is a matter as to which bill should come to the floor first, and in which body is a matter for the leadership. It depends on the state of the hearings, it depends on the judgment of the committees involved, and of the Rules Committee. What I am interested in seeing is before the end of this year both bills enacted. That is what we will be judged on.

[5.] Q. Mr. President, do the reports from Secretary Wirtz and others give you any reason to expect a negotiated settlement of this railroad dispute before next Monday's deadline, or the report to Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. No, but I think both groups should be much better off to reach a settlement in the remaining days than they will be to have a strike, which affects the national economy, and interest, and have this matter before the Congress. No one can be certain in what form it would come out. There are a few days left, and I think that they ought to reach an agreement themselves and not depend upon the Government to do it.

[6.] Q. Mr. President, there have been published reports that the Russians are having second thoughts about landing a man on the moon. If they should drop out of the race to the moon, would we still continue with our moon program; or secondly, if they should wish to cooperate with us in a joint mission to the moon, would we consider agreeing to that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, in the first place, we don't know whether the Russians are-what their plans may be. What we are interested in is what their capabilities are. While I have seen the statement of Mr. Lovell 1 about what he thinks the Russians are doing, his information is not final. Their capacity is substantial; there is every evidence that they are carrying on a major campaign and diverting greatly needed resources to their space effort. With that in mind, I think that we should continue. It may be that our assumption--or the prediction in this morning's paper that they are not going to the moon--might be wrong a year from now. And are we going to divert ourselves from our effort in an area where the Soviet Union has a lead, is making every effort to maintain that lead, in an area which could affect our national security as well as great peaceful development? I think we ought to go right ahead with our own program and go to the moon before the end of this decade.

1 Sir Bernard Lovell, British astronomer.

The point of the matter always has been not only of our excitement or interest in being on the moon, but the capacity to dominate space, which would be demonstrated by a moon flight, I believe is essential to the United States as a leading free world power. That is why I am interested in it and that is why I think we should continue, and I would be not diverted by a newspaper story.

Q. What about the second part of my question?

THE PRESIDENT. The second question is what cooperation we would be willing to carry on with the Soviet Union. We have said before to the Soviet Union that we would be very interested in cooperation. As a matter of fact, finally, after a good many weeks of discussion, an agreement was worked out on an exchange of information in regard to weather, but we have never been able to go into more detail. The kind of cooperative effort which would be required for the Soviet Union and the United States together to go to the moon would require a breaking down of a good many barriers of suspicion and distrust and hostility which exists between the Communist world and ourselves.

There is no evidence as yet that those barriers will come down, though quite obviously we would like to see them come down. Obviously, if the Soviet Union were an open society, as we are, that kind of cooperation could exist, and I would welcome it. I would welcome it, but I don't see it as yet, unfortunately.

[7.] Q. Mr. President, do you think that Mrs. Murphy should have to take into her home a lodger whom she does not want regardless of her reason, or would you accept a change in the civil rights bill to except small boarding houses like Mrs. Murphy's?

THE PRESIDENT. The question would be, it seems to me, whether Mrs. Murphy had a substantial impact on interstate commerce.

[8.] Q. Mr. President, if the talks in Moscow do go well, would you be receptive to the idea of a summit conference?

THE PRESIDENT. The matter has never come up since Governor Harriman has been there. I have always said I would go any place if I thought it was essential to the making of an effective agreement. There is no evidence that a summit is indicated or needed. There seems to be every evidence if we can get an agreement that we can reach it in our respective capitals. So I must say in complete frankness that this matter has not been before us, and if it came before us, I would give it consideration in light of what the situation was. But as of yet there has been no talk about it.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, there has been rising expectation since your visit to Europe that your next travels would take you to the Far East and South Asia. Could you tell us if you are considering such a trip, and, if so, if it could come by the end of this year or early next year?

THE PRESIDENT. We have no plans for a trip. I would like to go sometime--to go to the Far East. I think it is an area of great importance to us, but we have no plans for it, and I would think that we have a lot of work to do here for a good many months.

[10.] Q. Mr. President, there has been a good deal of public concern about the political situation in South Viet-Nam, and I would like to ask you whether the difficulties between the Buddhist population there and the South Vietnamese Government has been an impediment to the effectiveness of American aid in the war against the Viet Cong?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I think it has. I think it is unfortunate that this dispute has arisen at the very time when the military struggle has been going better than it has been going in many months. I would hope that some solution could be reached for this dispute, which certainly began as a religious dispute, and because we have invested a tremendous amount of effort and it is going quite well.

I do realize of course, and we all have to realize, that Viet-Nam has been in war for 20 years. The Japanese came in, the war with the French, the civil war which has gone on for 10 years, and this is very difficult for any society to stand. It is a country which has got a good many problems and it is divided, and there is guerrilla activity and murder and all of the rest. Compounding this, however, now is a religious dispute. I would hope this would be settled, because we want to see a stable government there, carrying on a struggle to maintain its national independence.

We believe strongly in that. We are not going to withdraw from that effort. In my opinion, for us to withdraw from that effort would mean a collapse not only of South Viet-Nam, but Southeast Asia. So we are going to stay there. We hope with the great effort which is being carried by the Vietnamese themselves, and they have been in this field a lot longer than we have, and with a good deal more deaths and casualties, that behind this military shield put up by the Vietnamese people they can reach an agreement on the civil disturbances and also in respect for the rights of others. That's our hope. That's our effort. That--we're bringing our influence to bear. And the decision is finally theirs, but I think that before we render too harsh a judgment on the people, we should realize that they are going through a harder time than we have had to go through.

[11.] Q. A personal question, sir, if I may. It has been reported that you turned to playing golf again. I wonder if you could tell us how you feel and how you enjoyed returning to what has been reported one of your favorite sports.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I like it. I did not think I was going to play golf again until my trip. I don't want to get into a discussion of back difficulties, but my trip to Europe, I think, helped. Getting out of that office did something. So, I enjoy it.

[12.] Q. Mr. President, at Frankfurt you said the time has come for a common effort on the International Monetary Fund. Could you give us a more specific notion of what you had in mind?

THE PRESIDENT. We are sending tomorrow a balance of payments message which will have a good many of our suggestions. Quite obviously, the dollar is international currency and has served us well, and served the West well, and with the sterling has been the basis for a good deal of international liquidity. I have every confidence that it can continue to be. I think we can still continue on the gold standard. We have had good bilateral relations with a good many countries of Europe, who by prepayment of debt, and by other rather technical transactions, have eased some of the burdens of the balance of payments difficulties which we have been undergoing.

But I would confine my remarks to that at this time, and recommend my statement tomorrow on the balance of payments. It may be that as time goes on, other suggestions may be made to provide greater liquidity and greater security for the various currencies. I think if the program we are recommending tomorrow is enacted, it will make a substantial difference to our balance of payments. And I think the long-range prognosis for us--for our balance of payments--I think is quite good.

Our costs in relation to other costs have remained relatively stable. Brookings Institution makes a judgment that by the mid-sixties and beyond we can be in perhaps even a surplus position again.1 But what we want to do is prevent these large flows back and forth, which cause countries to adopt restrictive measures which affect adversely their domestic economy and therefore have a deflationary effect upon the entire Western monetary system.

1 The President referred to a study "The United States Balance of Payments in 1968" by Walter S. Salant et al. (298 pp., Brookings, 1963).

But to be specific to your question, I have no proposals beyond the ones I am making tomorrow, which will be before you. But it is a matter which I think we ought to continue to talk to the Western European powers about.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in an official reply to the Chinese Communists this week described the Chinese Communists' policy as one which would lead to a conflict with the capitalist world in which both the victor and the vanquished would wind up under nuclear rubble. Do you share this view as to the apparent direction of Chinese Communist policy at this time?

THE PRESIDENT. It would seem to be directed to that end, but, of course, if it came to that, the Chinese would be fighting with the Soviet nuclear arsenal. There are some countries which would like to have us fight a war with our arsenal of nuclear weapons, so I think the Soviet Union naturally is not anxious to engage in a nuclear struggle to carry out ideological doctrines that the Chinese Communists may develop. They have a natural reluctance to see their country destroyed for that reason, as do we.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, it's been reported that you hope to make a trip of 4 or 5 days duration around the country in the fall in the interests of conservation. Could you tell us a little bit about that, and might you consider starting or ending your trip in the middle of the Potomac River to survey and perhaps to smell the sewage disposal problem in the National Capital?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, if we do make that trip, I will certainly observe it, pass over it, and even go further than that.

[15.] Q. Mr. President, the United States Employment Service is seeking jobs for both the unemployed and the employed, and some of these jobs solicited and advertised by the USES run from $10,000 to $22,500, which is a salary level of Congressmen and a level at which job seekers wouldn't be thought to need public assistance. Some of your critics have charged that the USES is competing with private enterprise, both in the business community and on the campus.

THE PRESIDENT. What is your question I didn't hear the first part of it?

Q. The USES is soliciting jobs for people who have jobs and people who don't, and some of the jobs that they are soliciting for people who already have jobs run from $10,000 to $22,500--

THE PRESIDENT. What jobs are they talking about, for example?

Q. They advertise in the papers

THE PRESIDENT. Was it because we need special skills, perhaps, in the Government?

Q. Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. I don't see anything wrong with that. We may need some skills. I am not familiar with the story, but just judging it from your question, I would assume that what they are talking about are certain skills which the Government needs, which may be in short supply, and therefore they are announcing that there are openings in the Federal Government for that purpose. That would seem--

Q. No, these are private jobs.

THE PRESIDENT. They are private jobs?

Q. Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. I would be glad to look into the matter, whatever it is. I would assume they are right, but I will be glad to check it.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, do you see any indications that the Castro Government is seeking a more relaxed relationship with the United States, and, if so, are we prepared to meet them in that?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I have seen these verbal statements, but I have seen no evidence. As I say, I think the United States has indicated very clearly that we do not accept the existence of, and cannot coexist in the peaceful sense with, a Soviet satellite in the Caribbean. So I don't see that any progress is going to be made along these lines as long as Cuba is a Soviet satellite.

[17.] Q. Mr. President, do you agree with Britain's Lord Home who believes that the Sino-Soviet breach cannot be healed?

THE PRESIDENT. I have always said that I thought it would be unwise for the United States to talk about a matter over which we have only limited control. Therefore, I have not commented and would not comment on it until the actuality becomes more obvious than it still is today. Quite obviously there are strong indications of pressure there, but I would not make any final statements because history has shown that they are frequently reversed.

[18.] Q. Mr. President, in the 1960 campaign you used to say that it was time for America to get moving again. Do you think it is moving, and if so, how and where? The reason I ask you the question, Mr. President, is that the Republican National Committee recently adopted a resolution saying you were 'pretty much a failure.

THE PRESIDENT. I am sure it was passed unanimously. [Laughter]

I think that we have made significant progress on the economic front--in the increase in our gross national product of nearly $90 billion, in a 25-percent increase in profits, in farm income up 10 percent, and all of the rest. I think those statistics are available; they are obvious, and I think that they indicate that the United States has made substantial progress.

The only thing is that the United States has to move very fast to even stand still. We are going to have to find in the next decade 22 million jobs to take care of those coming into the labor market and those who are eliminated by technological gains. But we have been attempting to do something about the problem. In our tax program and in our various economic and legislative proposals that we have made in the last Congress and in this Congress, we have attempted to deal with some of the economic problems facing the country.

I must say that I found a scarcity of useful resolutions coming out of the source which you name, dealing with this problem of unemployment, tax revision, tax reform, minimum wage, social security, trade expansion. All these are areas where we have taken some action. But I am not satisfied at all, and I think we have to go a good deal further. Unemployment is still too high and it is particularly concentrated among the unskilled, which is the hard core, and among those who are structurally unemployed because of technological changes, and particularly in areas like the Appalachians which are very hard to reach even if the economy is going ahead at a strong rate.

I think the tax bill this year will make an important difference to the economic effect of the country. If the tax bill doesn't pass this year, a good many economic plans, and a good many inventory developments of the last months which have helped, I think, to stimulate the economy, will, of course, be disappointed, and I think the effect would be very adverse. This is a matter which I would hope we would have the support of Republicans and Democrats on. I think the argument about whether the country is moving or not will be, of course, a discussion next year, and I think we can get a better analysis of it after a 4-year period. I'll be prepared to say it is; they'll be prepared to say it isn't.

[19.] Q. Mr. President, getting back to legislation, some of your critics have charged that your proposed domestic Peace Corps will be, in effect, a large waste; that it would merely duplicate the work already being done by Federal, State, and local agencies. Would you care to comment?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't agree with that at all. That's the same kind of argument we heard about the Peace Corps when it was formed; that this was a useless effort. I think it has been very successful. I think if you go to so many parts of this country-the difficulty is, and I have seen some interesting articles written about this, that there is a good deal of poverty in the United States, but not many people see it. There are a good many people who are mentally retarded, but not many people see it. After all, 3 percent of the population of the United States, of our children, are mentally retarded, and x percent of Sweden.

There are a great many areas where we need to do a good deal more--Indian reservations, parts of this country where school dropouts, slums, chronic poverty now exist. Millions of Americans experience it, but they are scattered and frequently not able to bring their views to bear. All of us move in a rather different atmosphere, so we are not as aware of it as we should be, except statistically. Now the fact of the matter is I think these young men and women would be proud to give a year of their lives to the service of their country. They are willing to go abroad--I think they'd be more willing to stay home. Their example, I think, can be a catalyst. We have millions of people who work in the various agencies, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, all the rest. I think they do a wonderful job. We want to supplement their work. Most of those who work in the field say more can be done. The District of Columbia is a prime example of where we need dozens of volunteers to work with young people. We get a lot of them. There are a good many people who work in this District, but we need a lot more.

What we want to do is to make it possible for people in this country to give a year of their lives without compensation, but with enough to live on, to service in these various areas where people do not enjoy the prosperity which so much of our country experiences. I think those opposed to it are wrong. I think the program is a good idea.

[20.] Q. Mr. President, it's pretty generally acknowledged that your administration has done more for civil rights fundamental advances than any in many years. Do you find that the demonstrations. which are taking place are a handicap to you, specifically the Washington march in August? Do you think that this will--

THE PRESIDENT. No. I think that the way that the Washington march is now developed, which is a peaceful assembly calling for a redress of grievances, the cooperation with the police, every evidence that it is going to be peaceful, they are going to the Washington Monument, they are going to express their strong views. I think that's in the great tradition. I look forward to being here. I am sure Members of Congress will be here. We want citizens to come to Washington if they feel that they are not having their rights expressed. But, of course, arrangements have been made to make this responsible and peaceful. This is not a march on the Capital.

Now, there are other places, of course, where the demonstrations--where there are grievances, but where the demonstrations get caught up in a cycle. We've got it in Cambridge, Md., where there is no peace. They have almost lost sight of what the demonstration is about. You have an increasingly dangerous situation. You could have violence any night. You have 400 National Guardsmen there now. I am concerned about those demonstrations. I think they go beyond information, they go beyond protest, and they get into a very bad situation where you get violence, and I think the cause of advancing equal opportunities only loses.

But I do feel also--so I have warned against demonstrations which could lead to riots, demonstrations which could lead to bloodshed, and I warn now against it.

Secondly, some of the people, however, who keep talking about demonstrations never talk about the problem of redressing grievances. I would hope that along with a secession of the kind of demonstrations that would lead to rioting, people would also do something about the grievances. You just can't tell people, "Don't protest," but on the other hand, "We are not going to let you come into a store or a restaurant." It seems to me it is a two-way street.

If the Congress will act, if, most importantly, individuals will act--and I am impressed by the fact that since May 22d we began our meetings at the White House, and Justice Department, and meetings have been held by Governors and Mayors all around the country, that there have been substantial gains made in areas of the country where before there was no progress in restaurants, movies, motels. So something can be done. So I would suggest that we exercise great care in protesting so that it doesn't become riots, and, number two, that those people who have responsible positions in Government and in business and in labor do something about the problem which leads to the demonstration.

[21.] Q. May I ask, sir, about the recent demonstration by the African States at the ILO conference with respect to South Africa? What is our American position with regard to South Africa's participation in the U.N. and many of its agencies?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, we have condemned the racial policy of South Africa, which is inimical, I think, to the future of South Africa, as well as repugnant to us. We also do not believe that it is useful to begin to expel nations of the United Nations. I think you have enough pressures on the United Nations. I think these countries ought to stay in the United Nations. The United Nations has every right to express hostility to policies which are pursued which are a threat to peace. But it would seem to me unwise to expel nations from the United Nations because if the hand were moved, others will come, and the United Nations will be fragmented. I think it ought to. be as broad as possible a coverage. But I think we ought to be very clear in our hostility to the concepts of racial separation.

[22.] Q. Sir, I want to ask you something in view of yesterday's interest raise.1 I want to read you a little bit from the Democratic Party Platform of 1960:

1 To stem the flow of dollars overseas, the Federal Reserve Board raised its lending rate from 3 to 3 1/2 percent. The raise was accompanied by authorization to banks to increase the interest paid to corporate depositors on short-term funds.

"A Democratic President will put an end to the present high interest tight money policy. This policy has failed in its stated purposes to keep prices down. The Republican high interest policy has extracted a costly toll from every American who has financed a home, an automobile, a refrigerator, or television set."

How can you reconcile this with what happened yesterday on interest rates?

THE PRESIDENT. Because, as you study the statement made yesterday by the Federal Reserve, you will realize we are talking about short-term rates, and that under this administration, mortgage rates and other rates which affect business have dropped since this administration took office, and have dropped in some ways in a significant way. It is our hope that in the effort which the Federal Reserve is carrying out, which will be an increase in the short-term rates which primarily affect the short-term flow out of the United States, they will also make an effort to maintain the stability of long-term rates. That is the policy of the Government, that is the effort of the Federal Reserve, and the Treasury, and, for that reason, the policy we took yesterday is in accordance with that statement you just read.

[23.] Q. Mr. President, you stated that the United States would never agree to coexistence with Cuba as long as it was a Soviet satellite. If the Soviet troops left Cuba and if Cuba started moving towards a Titoist type situation, do you see the possibility of perhaps coexistence?

THE PRESIDENT. It is very difficult to base a future policy on presumptions which are not today realized. The fact of the matter is the Soviet troops are there. The fact of the matter is that Cuba does follow a satellite role, and that is what we consider unacceptable to us. I would hope that the situation some day would change.

[24.] Q. Mr. President, Governor Rockefeller and Senator Goldwater are sharply divided on what sort of an appeal the Republican Party should make to the South in 1964. Perhaps this question will be faced by you next year, and I wondered whether you plan to either repudiate or reject the support and the votes of segregationists in the South.

THE PRESIDENT. I think that the record of this administration on this matter of equal opportunity is so well known to everyone, North and South, that in 1964 there will be no difficulty in identifying the record of the Democratic administration, what it stands for. And my judgment is, based on history, that the Republican Party also will make a clear stand on this issue. I would be surprised if they didn't.

[25.] Q. Mr. President, in the last week the Governor of Alabama, the Governor of Mississippi, and the Attorney General of Arkansas have all testified before the Senate Commerce Committee insisting that the integration move was Communist inspired. And this has led to some fears on the part of some Senators that we may be entering into a period of McCarthyism that will submerge this issue. Will you comment on it?

THE PRESIDENT. The fact of the matter is that the Communists attempt, and obviously, to worm their way into every movement, and particularly to worm their way into those movements where there is an obvious-where there is trouble. I would think that the relatively few remaining Communists in the United States, and they are very few, I would think that they would attempt to take advantage of whatever difficulties may arise in the United States. But I must say that we looked into this matter with a good deal of care.

We have no evidence that any of the leaders of the civil rights movements in the United States are Communists. We have no evidence that the demonstrations are Communist-inspired. There may be occasions when a Communist takes part in a demonstration. We can't prevent that. But I think it is a convenient scapegoat to suggest that all the difficulties are Communist and if the Communist movement would only disappear that we would end this.

The fact of the matter is, it is easy to blame it on the authorities in Washington, it is easy to blame it on the Attorney General or the President, and say, "If they would just stop talking about these things the problem would go away." The way to make the problem go away, in my opinion, is to provide for a redress of grievances.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Kennedy's fifty-eighth news conference was held in the State Department Auditorium at 4 o'clock on Wednesday afternoon, July 17, 1963.

John F. Kennedy, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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