The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon.
[1.] Q. Mr. President, the House Rules Committee, I understand, has Just voted down your urban affairs bill. I wonder if in that view you plan to submit it again.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will say this: It is my understanding that the House Rules Committee rejected by a vote of 9 to 6 the proposal which had come out, which we had sent up, and which had come out of the House Committee on Government Operations.
I am somewhat astonished at the Republican leadership, which opposed this bill. It is my understanding that all of the Republican members of the Rules Committee opposed the bill, I had gotten the impression 2 weeks ago, after reading the reports from the meeting in Oklahoma, that they shared our concern for more effective management and responsibility of the problems of two-thirds of our population who live in the cities. These cities are expanding. They face many problems--housing, transportation, and all the rest--which vitally affect our people.
This is a most valuable and important proposal, and for that reason, therefore, I am going to send it to the Congress as a reorganization plan, and give every member of the House and Senate an opportunity to give their views and work their will on this. And we are going to send it up right away.
[2.] Q. Mr. President, could you discuss for us your general feelings about the limits which you feel should or should not be imposed on the public statements of military figures? Do you think that--what degree of review should be exercised over their public utterances?
THE PRESIDENT. I must say I don't think that we could do better than to read the remarks of three distinguished military officers: General White's article in this week's Newsweek, Admiral Burke, a distinguished officer who is now retired, and General Lemnitzer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff--all men of long experience, all men who understand the importance of the proper relationship between the military and the civilian. And I must say that after reading those three statements, I am strengthened in my conviction of the good judgment of Mr. Lovetts's words when he said that this flag looks redder to the bulls outside than it does inside. I think that--I commend those three statements to the military and to the civilians, and I think they set a very proper guidance.
I'm glad this matter is being looked into by--particularly by a committee headed by Senator Stennis, who is an outstanding Senator. I am sure that it will be useful. But I do think that the relationship which has existed for so many years, which provides for civilian control and responsibility, and the coordination of speeches which interpret Government policy, so that the United States speaks with force and strength--I believe that we should continue this very valuable policy which has been carried out in my predecessor's administration, and the predecessor before, of giving guidance on speeches, so that particularly when they are given by high governmental officials--I understand 1200 speeches were submitted and given by the Defense Department, I think over 600 of them involved foreign policy matters, and were submitted to the Department of State. When I gave my State of the Union Address, I submitted that part dealing with foreign policy to the State Department for any comments, the part dealing with the Defense Department and national defense, to the Secretary of Defense for his comments. This is the way a government like ours, which is large and which deals with problems which are extremely important and sensitive, and which involve our relations around the world--this is the way we can coordinate and make effective expressions of our views. So that I am confident this hearing will be useful and it got off to a very good start with those three statements. In fact, the military seemed to me to appreciate the problem better than some civilians. [Laughter]
[3.] Q. Mr. President, there are persistent reports that you have proposed that Eugene Black of the World Bank lend his good offices to India and Pakistan to settle the Kashmir dispute. Could you say if this is correct, sir, and what your hopes for success might be, if so?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I asked Mr. Black if he would undertake to see if a solution was possible in this most difficult and delicate problem. It creates international tensions, of course, since we are assisting both of the countries. We want our assistance to be used in a way which is most effective for the people.
Obviously, peaceful relations between Pakistan and India are in the interests of world peace and the interests that we seek to promote. Mr. Black is widely regarded. He had a very successful period as negotiator on the Indus River matter and, therefore, he has generously consented, if it was decided by the parties involved that he could be helpful, to use his good offices, and I suggested that they consider this matter.
[4.] Q. Mr. President, I wonder if you could tell us what considerations, other than a tight schedule went into your brother's decision not to visit Moscow on his trip.
THE PRESIDENT. I thought his statement was as he described it.
Q. Was there any feeling, Mr. President, that high level talks would be useful until they had made some more conciliatory move on Berlin?
THE PRESIDENT. No. I think the statement he gave was the reason.
[5.] Q. Mr. President, there seems to be a feeling that you are in for a fight on your trade program. Could you say how you think this will develop, mostly along the economic lines, or sectional lines or political lines, or perhaps all three?
THE PRESIDENT. It may be all three. I am hopeful that it will be certainly a bipartisan fight. I believe it will be. This matter received its first impetus from the report of Secretary Herter and Mr. Clayton. It--the general principles have been supported by people like Henry Cabot Lodge in his work with NATO and the Atlantic Council. It has been given a general support by President Eisenhower. So that I am hopeful that it will be a matter of bipartisan concern.
There will, of course, be sectional interests involved and there will be industrial interests involved, but I am hopeful about this because I think the facts, the necessities and our interests are so much on the side of our program that I believe that the Congress will respond.
[6.] Q. Mr. President, are you and your military advisers completely satisfied with the makeup and strength of NATO at the present time?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think we can improve NATO. I think that it's important that we add to the conventional strength of NATO. We've been emphasizing that. We, ourselves, have increased our contribution. I am hopeful that we can meet the targets which General Norstad stated as minimal if Western Europe is to be successfully defended and also if we are to have, as I have said, an alternative between nuclear holocaust and retreat. So I think it could be strengthened.
[7.] Q. Mr. President, in connection with the House Rules Committee vote, I wanted to ask you about an article that appeared this morning, and it was described as being based on an authorized interview with you. It included this sentence: "The President sees at the end of a year how nearly impossible it is to govern under the system of divided powers." Would you care to expand on that view?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I haven't given any authorized interview--[laughter]--but if you want to know my views, of course there is a difficulty between a Congress and a President, an executive. We are coordinate branches. There are different views, different interests. Perspectives are different from. one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other. I was 14--I've been 14 times longer at one end of it than I have been at the other, so I appreciate the Congress' responsibilities.
I believe that on the particular issue that the Congress should speak its will because I believe it vitally important, particularly as these cities expand, they cross State lines. The mayors come to see us--and they've strongly supported this legislation. They move from department to department where their interests are assigned to different agencies under different conditions. This would be a very important step forward, and that's why I am going to follow a procedure of sending it to the Congress so that in this way we are bound to get a vote on it by the House and the Senate.
[8.] Q. Mr. President, if you are able to create a Department of Urban Affairs and Housing, there have been numerous reports that you would appoint Robert Weaver to this Cabinet position. Would you care to comment on these reports?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Weaver is the head of the Housing Agency and he was chosen for that position because he had long experience. I think he has done an outstanding job.
This would be the most important part of any new agency. If we did receive the authority, I would appoint Mr. Weaver to be the Secretary.
[9.] Q. Mr. President, your brother Teddy, in Massachusetts, seems to be running for something but none of us are very certain just what it is. Could you tell us if you have had an opportunity to discuss this with him and whether you can tell us the secret?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think he's the man--he's the man who's running and he's the man to discuss it with.
[10.] Q. Mr. President, assuming the American air bases in the Portuguese Azores are vital to our security, could you explain to us if you expect the Government will have any difficulty negotiating leases--renewed leases on those bases this year, especially in light of the report from Lisbon of our strained relations with Portugal?
THE PRESIDENT. I think the Azores base is very important to us and to NATO and the negotiations will take place this year. We're hopeful that they will continue to permit us to use this base upon which 75 to 80 percent of our military air traffic to Europe depends, so that in these rather critical times in Europe that base is extremely important to us.
I'm hopeful that it will be possible for us to reach an agreement with the Portuguese for continued use of it. But that's a matter which will be negotiated between the countries.
[11.] Q. Mr. President, you said yesterday that more people ought to drink milk. None of the young marrieds I know of lay off it on account of radioactivity. They lay off it because they can hardly buy enough for the children, and not themselves, on account of the price. Now, how is it that with the butter priced off the table and milk so high they can't buy it, we have surpluses that we buy up and give away?
THE PRESIDENT. The price of milk has not--well, I don't have the latest figures here--in the last 12 months, overall consumer prices have not materially increased. Perhaps--so that I'm not sure that the whole explanation of the drop within the last 12 months, which has been quite sharp--in other words, the consumption has dropped by 11/2 percent, while the population was going up 11/2 percent, so that I don't feel, Mrs. Craig, even though I recognize that this is an important element, I don't believe it can be explained by price alone. We are attempting to make judgments as to what can be done to increase the consumption. I don't think that the dairy farmer, who averages about, I think, 82 cents an hour, is being overcompensated for his work. So that while price obviously is a factor, it is not the total explanation.
I was attempting to reassure on radio- . active, and on the matter of--and also to see if we can stimulate it by example. Mr. Salinger drank it this morning--[laughter]-with no adverse effect.
[12.] Q. Mr. President, do you have real prospects that your medical-care-for-the-aged bill will come out of committee finally for a vote up or down by Congress at this session?
THE PRESIDENT. I have real hope that there will be a vote on the medical care for the aged this year, in the Congress, yes.
[13.] Q. Mr. President, what is your view of the House amendment to the postal rate bill which would prohibit the Post Office from distributing mail labeled as Communist propaganda?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think it does not give the Attorney General--I just had the language here--it doesn't give the Attorney General very clear guidance as to what he's supposed to label Communist and political propaganda. Is he supposed to label newspapers that may be received or speeches, or whatever they may be, so that the language is somewhat vague? In addition, I think we want to realize that this is a reciprocal matter. I think in the last 12 months, ending March 31, 1961, we sent--a total of 16 million pounds of mail of all types were sent to the Iron Curtain countries. A lot of it went to friends and relatives in Iron Curtain countries, food packages and all of the rest, and we were only receiving 2,300,000 pounds.
Now, there has been a drop in the amount of mail coming in from Communist countries in the last few months, really since last spring. If there is also an effort made by the Communists to deny us ability to send mail, it's going to present serious problems for a good many Americans who have been carrying on correspondence with friends and relatives. Now, I know that that's not the purpose. I think the Senate should examine the language very clearly and make sure that it's effective and is responsive to our national needs, and determine whether the rather generalized instructions to the Attorney General fall within the necessity of legal precision.
I think the American people are used to hearing all sides. I don't think that they are particularly impressed by a good deal of what I have seen of propaganda. We send a good deal of mail out and I want to be sure that our rights to send our mail and our views and our correspondence to all parts of the world are not interfered with. So that I think the Senate should look at it carefully.
[14.] Q. Mr. President, in your comments on the statements about the military censorship issue, you make no reference to President Eisenhower's statement of yesterday. Would you care to comment on what he had to say?
THE PRESIDENT. No. Everyone is giving their views. I've given mine. And my views are--I think I just gave them. President Eisenhower is entitled to hold his views and express them. And as I say, I thought Mr. Lovett and these other three military hit it so precisely that I strongly endorse what they said, and I'm filled with appreciation of the fact that three distinguished members of the military said it.
[15.] Q. Mr. President, two well-known security risks have recently been put on a task force in the State Department to help reorganize the Office of Security.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, who?
Q. William Arthur Wieland, a well-known man who for over a year the State--
THE PRESIDENT. And who--now I think, Mrs. McClendon, I think that--would you give me the other name?
Q. Yes, sir--J. Clayton Miller.
THE PRESIDENT. Right. Well, now, I think the term--I would say that the term you've used to describe them is a very strong term which I would think that you should be prepared to substantiate. I am familiar with Mr. Miller's record because I happened to look at it the other day. He has been cleared by the State Department. In my opinion, the duties which he is now carrying out, he is fit for. And I have done that after Mr. Rusk and I both looked at the matter, so therefore I cannot accept your description of him.
Q. Did you both look at Mr. William Arthur Wieland, too?
THE PRESIDENT. I am familiar with Mr. Wieland. I'm also familiar with his duties at the present time, and in my opinion, Mr. Miller and Mr. Wieland, the duties they have been assigned to, they can carry out without detriment to the interests of the United States, and I hope without detriment to their characters by your question.
[16.] Q. Mr. President, considering that the one ingredient in all these radical right organizations seems to be anticommunism or possibly superpatriotism, would it be feasible or useful for you, or even for the Republican leaders, to appeal to these people to stop tilting at windmills and to make a common cause against the enemy? My question really is, do you think there is any merit in this idea?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I did attempt in my speech at Seattle, my speech in Los Angeles, and in other speeches to indicate what I consider to be the challenges that the United States faces, and I would hope that--there have been others who have done the same thing and I think we should keep that up. And I am hopeful that we can turn the energies of all patriotic Americans to the great problems that we face at home and abroad. The problems are extremely serious. I share their concern about the cause of freedom. But I do think that we ought to look at what the challenges are with some precision and not concern ourselves on occasions with matters such as character or integrity of the Chief Justice or other matters which are really not even in question.
[17.] Q. Mr. President, it has been reported that you have indicated an interest in the provision of some sort of scholarship aid, perhaps something similar to the GI bill, for the reservists and National Guardsmen that were recently called up. Could you give us a little clearer picture of your views? For example, would you favor something such as Senator Yarborough of Texas' cold war GI bill?
THE PRESIDENT. Well now, on the general question of whether we should have a special scholarship program for reservists or draftees, this is a matter that is being considered. Senator Yarborough's bill was not in the administration's program on education this year. It involved a rather large sum of money, $350 million, at a time when we were making rather broad recommendations for our education. But whether there should be some special program of selected scholarships which would be available for competition is a matter which we are looking at, and which I hope to discuss with Senator Yarborough.
[18.] Q. Mr. President, as you have just emphasized, present strontium 90 levels in milk are certainly well within an acceptable range. But since milk is a major source of calcium and adequate calcium in the body apparently does help prevent deposits of strontium 90 in bone, it has been suggested that strontium removal plants, such as the one developed by the Government might be adopted by all the dairy industry to provide the Nation with a nutritious as well as a radiation-free source of calcium. Would you give us your views on this? What would you think of it?
THE PRESIDENT. My information is that-and I think, as I stated yesterday, that this has not reached a point where any action such as you've suggested is necessary. Milk is safe and can be drunk with strong conviction that it's assisting health and not working against good health. Now, if the situation should ever change, we would inform the American people and take appropriate action. But for the present, the cow itself, along with other factors, makes our milk very safe and useful to drink.
Q. Yes, that is what I pointed out. The only thing is it has been suggested that many other foods are not as yet safe and do add to the strontium burden in the body, and if one has a calcium-free source that is free of contamination, this helps build up a resistance for these other things. It was suggested from that point of view rather than because it is dangerous now or even in the future. [Laughter]
[19.] Q. Mr. President, in the face of your economic message urging both management and labor to moderate their policy regarding price and wage increases, would you tell us how you feel about the electricians union's contract in New York which calls for a 25-hour week?
THE PRESIDENT. I stated, I think at the Steelworkers convention, before I was elected, and I've stated since then, that I thought that the 40-hour week was the-in view of the many obligations that we had upon us at home and abroad, represented the national goal at this time. In addition, I've also stated that I thought that labor management contracts should be settled within the realm of productivity increases, so that there would be a beneficial effect on price stability.
Now, this contract did not meet either one of those two standards, and therefore I regretted it.
[20.] Q. Mr. President, how do you feel or how does this Government feel about the political as distinct from the economic integration of Western Europe? President de Gaulle has seemed to stress confederation as distinct from federation, and the British don't seem to be very eager for a common parliament. What is this Government's position?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, we support the Treaty of Rome, and of course that must be interpreted, and which is now a subject of negotiation between the Six, and will also be a subject of negotiation with the British, particularly because of their Commonwealth obligations and so on. So we'll have to wait to see how it evolves. But the general position of this administration, and the previous one, was support of the Treaty of Rome, support of the integration of Europe, because as Europe is strengthened we are strengthened. So that while the details are matters, of course, of judgment for them, the general movement we believe to be in the interests of the Atlantic Community.
[21.] Q. Mr. President, more than one-third of the Senate and several influential members of the House have petitioned you today seeking wider trade protection on textiles. In view of their importance to your trade fight in Congress, could you tell us how you plan to meet the request?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I received a letter today from both, a good many members of the House and the Senate in regard to the negotiations which are going to take place beginning next Monday, and they were anxious that in those negotiations, that we would be mindful of the desirability of maintaining a relationship between imports and national production. I believe last year's imports of textiles were around 7 percent-that's 1960--and they had gone from 4 percent to 7 percent from 1957 to 1960, and then dropped to about 6 percent. I think that this was a request for us to be concerned about any agreement which might provide a substantial increase in textiles, and we are very mindful of that, and we recognize the effect of all of this upon the trade bill itself. So this is a matter of concern to us, too.
[22.] Q. Mr. President, could you tell us what the United States hopes will emerge from the present conference at Punta del Este?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think that what we--I think--will see emerge is an implementation of the--really rather an effective statement of the concern that is felt by the people of Latin America and this country at the intrusion of communism into this--into our OAS family. And I'm confident that the negotiations that are now going on, and that the deliberations of the countries will be--will make their hostility to communism and totalitarianism very clear.
[23.] Q. Mr. President, could you give us your views of the bill on educational television which is now pending in the House Rules Committee?
THE PRESIDENT. I am sorry, I don't know enough about it to give you an informed opinion.
[24.] Q. Mr. President, in a very abbreviated interview this morning, the Attorney General said that the Government was looking into racketeering, the operations of racketeering, racketeers, in the stock exchange. Could you give us-could you comment upon this problem or give us any indication of the extent of it?
THE PRESIDENT. I think I would rather have you go back to the Attorney General on it.
[25.] Q. Mr. President, in your speech out in Columbus, Ohio, you spoke of a fragmentation in the Communist bloc. Could you elaborate, tell us a little more about this trouble in the Red paradise?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I did make a reference in my State of the Union to the closer integration of the free world at a time when that particular trend had not been the most noticeable trend in other parts of the world. But I think that until the pattern of the future is clearer and relationships are more precise, a good deal of our information must necessarily be surmised, and I don't really feel it would be useful at this time to explore it in more detail.
[26.] Q. Mr. President, it has been suggested by columnists and others that over the course of the past year you have become more conservative, particularly that you recognize that the country may not be ready for the full Democratic platform. Could you comment on this assessment and tell us if you have changed your view of the role of your leadership?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I consider the progress we made last year in implementing the platform was very beneficial: minimum wage, social security, depressed areas, and all the others, advances in the field of foreign aid authorization. We have sent up a good many more programs this year that were suggested in the platform. And I feel we're making, and going to make, progress toward carrying out the commitments of the country and the party. And we're staying at it.
Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Kennedy's twenty-first news conference was held in the State Department Auditorium at 4 o'clock on Wednesday afternoon, January 24, 1962.
John F. Kennedy, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/235640