John F. Kennedy photo

The President's News Conference

August 29, 1962

THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon. I have several announcements to make.

[1.] I regret to announce that Associate Justice frankfurter has retired from regular active service on the Supreme Court. He has served in the Court for 23 years, and for many years before that had an illustrious career as a lawyer and teacher. During his service on the Court, the direction of the law has been channeled by many important decisions which he has rendered. He has always been a vital force in directing those decisions. Few judges have made as significant and lasting impression upon the law. Few persons have made so important a contribution to our legal traditions and literature. Now regard for his health has compelled him to take a less active part in the Court's labors, and we shall miss him.

To the vacancy created by Justice frankfurter's retirement, I intend to appoint Secretary Goldberg. Secretary Goldberg will bring to the Court a wealth of experience gained from the active practice of law for over 30 years. He has had an enviable record of accomplishment at the bar and his character, temperament, and ability superbly qualify him for service on the Court. I believe that his scholarly approach to the law, combined with his deep understanding of our economic and political systems, will make him a valuable member of the Supreme Court. His place as an adviser and as head of the Department of Labor will be difficult to fill, but I am confident that he will find an equally wide opportunity for public service in his new position.

[2.] In Geneva this morning the Soviet representative proposed that agreement should be reached on a cutoff time for all nuclear weapon tests and that this date should be set as of January 1, 1963. I'm happy to say that the United States Government regards this as a reasonable target date and would like to join with all interested parties in a maximum effort to conclude effective agreements which can enter force on next New Year's Day. To accomplish this purpose the governments involved must accelerate their negotiations looking toward an agreed treaty.

For our part in the United States, such an agreed treaty must be presented to the Senate for consent to ratification. We therefore have no time to lose. The world will welcome an agreement that a way should be found to stop all nuclear testing at the end of this year. But I must point out again that in order to end testing, we must have workable international agreements, gentlemen's agreements and moratoria do not provide the type of guarantees that are necessary. They do not give assurance against an abrupt renewal of testing by unilateral action. This is the lesson of the Soviet Government's tragic decision to renew testing just a year ago. Nor can such informal arrangements give any assurance against secret underground testing. That is why we must have a definite agreement with reasonable and adequate assurance. The United States cannot be a party to any renewal of false hopes which the Soviet Government shattered last September. The two treaties now before the Geneva conference have been prepared with care to meet the technical necessities of an effective test ban. If the Soviet Government will accept a serious and formal agreement in either form, a real downward turn in the arms race is possible. The United States Government for its part will spare no effort to this end.

[3.] finally, I am very happy to announce and express great pleasure that the Schola Cantorum of the University of Arkansas won first prize for a 4n-voice choral group at the Arezzo International Polyphonic Group contest in Italy. This is the first time this contest has ever been won by an American group. They were sent by private citizens. The prize of 300,000 lira was presented by President Segni and Prime Minister Fanfani. We are inviting them to the White House at the Rose Garden at 12 noon, September 4, and we are very proud of them.

[4'] Q. Mr. President, how do you feel about the prospects of the National farmers Organization holding meat and grain off the market until processors promise to pay higher prices? Do you think, for example, the farmers have the same rights as an industrial union to strike and thus deprive consumers of their product?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there's no evidence that they are planning to deprive consumers of their products. What they would like to do is get a higher price for their products and it is a fact, of course, that farm income is low. Last year it was $2 billion above the figure of 1960, the highest it had been in 9 years, but farmers are very--particularly those that live on small farms, work a very hard day, and are paid a relatively low wage.

This kind of an effort has been tried, in the twenties and the thirties and other occasions, and it's not been successful because there are so many farmers. They are so separated that it's not been possible to have them together present a bargaining position, and it is because of that that the federal Government has entered into the matter. So I could not speculate on what their success will be.

[5.] Q. Mr. President, we were told the other day that Wilkes Thrasher of Chattanooga had been in to see you and that you were inclined to support his candidacy for Congress from Tennessee. Today we had an announcement that he is on the American delegation that's going down to observe, or help Trinidad celebrate its independence. I was wondering if this constitutes your idea of support or whether you have any plans, perhaps, to do a little political or nonpolitical campaigning in the South.

THE PRESIDENT. No, this does not constitute the action which I would hope to take to support his candidacy, this visit this weekend. This is a nonpolitical trip of his. As far as coming to Tennessee, I've no plans as yet and in fact, I haven't worked out my schedule for any State. But I support his candidacy.

[6.] Q. Mr. President, the United States has been urging four-power consultations in order to reduce tensions in Berlin. In this connection there have been reports of a foreign ministers meeting in advance of the General Assembly and also there has been speculation that you may personally meet with Mr. Khrushchev at the U.N. Would you give us your views on this, please?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. On the first matter there will be a meeting of the foreign ministers before the meeting of the General Assembly. It's been agreed to in principle; the time and location has not been set.

On the second matter, I think I responded last week to the question of Mr. Khrushchev's coming. We have no information and I've nothing really to add to what I said last week on this matter.

[7.] Q. Mr. President, some time ago you spoke about the problem of dealing with preparations of nuclear tests which can be carried on in a secret society to our disadvantage, as you pointed out. Can you tell us what has happened to this problem in these current negotiations?

THE PRESIDENT. We have indicated that if we could get an across the board agreement which would include a cessation of atmospheric tests and underground tests with adequate inspection for the underground tests, that we would feel that our security would be advanced, and we would accept that.

If there is only an atmospheric test ban which does not require inspection, of course, then other underground tests would continue. Quite obviously, the first agreement is the most desirable one. If we can't get that because of the Soviet Union's reluctance to permit us to have an effective inspection system, then we would like to get the second, because that would have an effect on the arms race and it would also have an effect, of course, on the problem of radiation. In that case, of course, underground testing would be permitted and we believe that that would give us sufficient assurance against the kind of event which happened last September.

[8.] Q. Mr. President, a recent decision of the Supreme Court said that the Postmaster General does not have the authority to keep pornographic material out of the United States mails except in a limited way, and the most dreadful stuff is coming into our homes into the hands of our children, brought by the United States mails. Now, have you or will you talk with the Attorney General and the Postmaster General as to how this can be remedied?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the statutes on the distribution of pornographic literature are well, I am sure, known. There's always been a problem, of course, of what is pornography and what is not. And the courts have made judgments in regard to several well-known books recently which some people regard as pornographic and others regard as great literature. I would not make the judgment today.

I think it is a problem, not only in the mails but on the magazines, and it's a matter of concern for parents. I don't think that the Post Office can be expected to do anything but carry out the laws, nor can the Attorney General, and the laws, which are interpreted by the courts, are quite clear.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, in connection with Berlin, there have been reports that the Soviets are interested in holding a fourpower meeting, that is, a meeting of the four occupying powers in Berlin, to discuss the Berlin situation. Have you seen any indications of this?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I'm not familiar with any proposal by the Soviet Union to discuss--perhaps you'd repeat exactly what it is--

Q. There have been indications or there have been reports that the Soviets are interested in a four-power meeting.

THE PRESIDENT. No, I have seen nothing about that. I've seen no recent proposal by the Soviet Union that there should be a four-power conference in Berlin to discuss the future of Berlin. We've had no indication that the Soviet Union has made that proposal.

[10.] Q. Sir, your brother is campaigning for the Senate on a slogan that he can do more for the State of Massachusetts. Does this imply that if he were elected, he would have more advantages as a Senator than other Members of the Senate?

THE PRESIDENT. NO. I think what he assumes is--as a matter of fact, I believe that the slogan is very similar to the one that I used in 1952, and we worked very hard for Massachusetts. I think he thinks that he can work very hard for Massachusetts and do more for it than the other candidates. I don't read any more into it than that. And I'm sure other candidates feel that they can do more. Only the people of Massachusetts, fortunately, can make the judgment, not the Republican press.

[11.] Q. Mr. President, the decision of the House leaders to put off consideration of your foreign aid bill until September 19 is being interpreted as a sign that it is weak and in some danger of losing. Is this your attitude?

THE PRESIDENT. I know the hazard in committee, but that has happened before. There are two primaries next week and we have the problem of the U.N. bonds, so it's really a scheduling matter, not a question of attempting to delay its coming up. I would say I can imagine nothing more shortsighted than to cut the heart out of this program, as some people wish to do. I was looking at some figures today which showed that the Soviet Union had given in economic and military assistance to one country, Indonesia, over $300 million in the last 12 months. They are giving, as we all know, substantial military and economic assistance to Cuba, as well as many other countries. Now, here are these countries, particularly those in Latin America, which have many economic, serious economic problems, those countries in Africa which are newly emerging, those countries along the Soviet Union border beginning with Greece, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, Thailand, and the others, South Viet-Nam, many of them are hard pressed, South Korea, the Republic of Chinasthey depend upon the United States to assist them in maintaining their freedom. Now we have an appropriation of $50 billion for national defense, and a large appropriation for defense, an appropriation for the Atomic Energy Commission. It seems to me to be the height of folly to appropriate these large sums of money for military organization, and let these very vital countries pass into the Communist bloc. I find it very ironical that those who make the strongest speeches against the Communist movements are the ones who want to cut this program the hardest, which is the most valuable weapon immediately that we have on the front lines against the Communist advance. This is a position which I've held, which President Eisenhower holds, and President Truman before him. I can assure any member of the Congress, or any citizen sitting here, this is a very vital program, and I would hope that it would be approached from a bipartisan point of view as it has in the past. This is completely removed from the Democratic-Republican dialog. We would not have been successful last year without help of Republican members in the House and Senate, and I'm sure that a good many of them are going to help again, because this is in the vital interests of the United States.

[12.] Q. Mr. President, could we make quite sure of the import of your remarks on inspection against preparation, because in a news conference last February you said that this would be necessary for even a ban on atmosphere tests. Were you saying just now that we do not believe that this kind of inspection against preparation is necessary?

THE PRESIDENT. What I am suggesting is if the test agreement covered only the atmosphere, that there would be under such an agreement possible--quite obviously--a continuation of tests underground and there would be other steps which we could take under those conditions which would keep our preparations, if there was a sudden breach of the kind we had last year, which would keep our preparations in a position to protect our interests.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, was it when you called on Mr. Justice Frankfurter about 2 weeks ago at his home that he informed you of his intention to retire--


Q. --and could you also shed some light on when you decided to appoint Secretary Goldberg?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I received a letter from the Justice. He did not discuss it with me nor did I with him. I received a letter from him yesterday and I wrote him last night, and I will release both of those letters right after this news conference. I decided after I received the Justice's letter that I would appoint Secretary Goldberg, last night, and discussed it with him on that occasion.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, Senator Capehart of Indiana in a speech the other day said that the Communists are sending troops into Cuba, not technicians, as you told us last week. Capehart, according to the UPI, also called for United States invasion of Cuba to stop the flow of troops and supplies. Would you comment, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. We've no evidence of troops. And I must say that I know that this matter is of great concern to Americans and many others. The United States has obligations all around the world, including West Berlin and other areas, which are very sensitive, and, therefore, I think that in considering what appropriate action we should take, we have to consider the totality of our obligations, and also the responsibilities which we bear in so many different parts of the world.

In response to your specific question, we do not have information that troops have come into Cuba, number one. Number two, the main thrust, of course, is assistance because of the mismanagement of the Cuban economy which has brought widespread dissatisfaction, economic slowdown, agricultural failures, which have been so typical of the Communist regimes in so many parts of the world. So that I think the situation was critical enough that they needed to be bolstered up.

However, we are continuing to watch what happens in Cuba with the closest attention and will respond to--will be glad to announce any new information, if it should come, immediately.

Q. Mr. President, did you answer my question, or Capehart's suggestion that we invade Cuba? What was that answer?

THE PRESIDENT. I'm not for invading Cuba at this time. No, I don't--the words do not have some secondary meaning. I think it would be a mistake to invade Cuba, because I think it would lead to--that it should be very--an action like that, which could be very casually suggested, could lead to very serious consequences for many people.

[15.] Q. Mr. President, the Soviets, as you well know, are continuing to use armored cars to transport their military personnel into West Berlin. Some persons on the scene have expressed the view that unless we object to this, it will give the Soviets additional rights in West Berlin which they have not had in the past and correspondingly reduce our rights in West Berlin. What could you tell us.--

THE PRESIDENT. I don't hold that view at all. I don't agree with that. In my opinion, it doesn't have that effect at all.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia has proposed that the 14 nations involved in the Laos conference be reconvened in order to guarantee Cambodia's neutrality. How feasible is such a proposal?

THE PRESIDENT. We are examining his proposal, and we've had conversations with officials of that government. We of course strongly support Cambodia's independence, neutrality, and the sanctity of its borders, and we would of course be glad to take any step which would advance the maintenance of those rights to which Cambodia as a sovereign power is entitled. So we are attempting to consider what step will most usefully advance the objectives which Prince Sihanouk wrote us about.

The question of the conference, and whether this would advance it, is a matter which is being considered, but his interests as expressed in the letter are our interests, and in my opinion should be the interests of other free nations.

[U.] Q. Mr. President, I wonder if a distinction could be made with respect to the troops in Cuba. Some of us were told at the State Department the other day that there is Russian military personnel in Cuba, that these are military technicians, and are the people who are probably going to operate missiles, similar to the Nike missiles. Is this in accord--

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know who told you that at the State Department, that they're going to operate Nike missiles, because that information we do not have at this time. There certainly are technicians there. They may be military technicians. We don't have complete information about what's going on in Cuba, but in the sense that troops--the word "troops" is generally used, they've had a military advisory commission there for a long period of time, so there may be additional military advisory personnel there or technicians. But on the question of troops, as it's generally understood, we do not have evidence that there are Russian troops there. There is an expanded advisory and technical mission.

Q. Are there no antiaircraft missiles shipped into Cuba?

THE PRESIDENT, We have no information as yet. That doesn't mean that there haven't been, but all I'm saying is that we have no such information as yet.

[18.] Q. Mr. President, William C. Foster, head of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, has said that even if an East-West nuclear test ban treaty with adequate safeguards were negotiated, there's no insurance that it will not be violated. In view of this, and the rising levels of fallout, would there be then much of a risk in signing a treaty to ban all tests in the atmosphere, in the air, outer space, and water, and undertaking then a voluntary moratorium on underground testing?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, there would be a great risk, because we've been through the moratorium route. I would hope we could sign the atmospheric test, which does not require inspection. The underground tests do require inspection to determine if there's been cheating. We went that road before for 3 years, and we found while we were negotiating, the Soviet Union had been preparing for many months to test, so we couldn't accept that again.

[19.] Q. Mr. President, this morning's newspapers carried reports out of Moscow to the effect that traffic from the Soviet Union to Cuba has increased so substantially that they're using ships from NATO countries to deliver some of these goods. Is this a matter you think the United States should take up with the NATO countries?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, definitely, definitely, and I should think that those who are associated with us would consider this matter very carefully, and consider what steps they could take to discourage it.

Q. We have up to now not asked our NATO partners?

THE PRESIDENT. We've been in consultation with them about the matter.

[20.] Q. Sir, I wondered if you've had time this last week to figure out some means whereby we might insist that if we give money to the U.N. by bonds, buying bonds or through a contingency fund, that there's some way that we could make them guarantee that the money we give them would not be used in military action against Katanga, and also be used by troops that commit atrocities.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I thought we went over this road last week, but I'm glad to go over it again.

Q. You said that you had not immediately agreed with the part about atrocities, and I thought maybe this last week you might have had time to reconsider.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I have thought about it, and I would say that I'd just like--I know the interest some have in Katanga, which I have always found to be interesting, but I will say that the situation in the Congo is very critical. And it's not only the matter of the Congo, of Kantanga, but also the situation in the rest of the Congo, which has no funds except those that have been supplied by the United Nations and by the United States, in very limited amounts of trade, and if we are unsuccessful or if the Congolese are unsuccessful--in bringing about a union on a satisfactory basis between the Katanga and the Congo--the remaining of the Congo-you are liable to find a very critical situation in the rest of the Congo, which would be very dangerous to the free world. So I would hope that those who have enlisted on one side or another would consider the general interest of a united Congo in a peaceful non-Communist Africa, which I believe very much at issue.

Now, in regard to the U.N. bonds, I strongly support it and I think that the cause of the United States as well as the free world would be advanced if the bonds were passed and the United Nations kept going. I don't want to see the United Nations go bankrupt and all of its peacekeeping machinery go into the ash can.

[21.] Q. Sir, would you tell us what the Monroe Doctrine means to you today in the light of world conditions and in Cuba?

THE PRESIDENT. The Monroe Doctrine means what it has meant since President Monroe and John Quincy Adams enunciated it, and that is that we would oppose a foreign power extending its power to the Western Hemisphere. And that's why we oppose what is being--what's happening in Cuba today. That's why we have cut off our trade. That's why we worked in the OAS and in other ways to isolate the Communist menace in Cuba. That's why we'll continue to give a good deal of our effort and attention to it.

[22.] Q. Mr. President, on the question of nuclear tests, can you explain how the security of the United States can be adequately protected by an agreement on our part 4 months hence to sign a test treaty, ban treaty, while the Soviet Union is in the middle of an extensive series of tests? Does this mean that you have determined that in this series they cannot catch up or overtake us?

THE PRESIDENT. We do not believe that they could make sufficient progress in this series of tests to adversely affect our security, number one; and number two, if we do not get an agreement, and I would say the chances are not--I'm not sanguine about the chances of an agreement--if we do not get an agreement, the danger to the United States will be greatly increased as more and more countries develop an atomic capacity and present us with an increasing danger as the decade goes on. So in answer to your question, I believe that the quicker we can get a test agreement the better off we will be.

Q. Mr. President, did you once say that you would make a determination at the end of any Russian series as to whether there would be a need for another American series?

THE PRESIDENT. I tried to respond that in our judgment our security would be assisted by an effective agreement if we could secure it by January 1st, or by any other date, because I consider the constant development of new and more dangerous weapons by not only the United States and the Soviet Union, but by other powers, and particularly the very strong possibility that proliferation will mark this decade if we don't get an agreement, as a matter of maximum peril to the United States, as well as the free world; and, therefore, if we can get an agreement it's in our interest and in our security.

Those who oppose an agreement should consider what our security will look like at the end of this decade if we do not have the agreement and we have the possibility of 10 or 15 countries having these weapons, and when one goes off, it may mean they all go off. So this administration will leave no stone unturned to get an agreement, if we can get it, and provide for our security on the basis which I enunciated in my original statement.

[23.] Q. Mr. President, a memorandum from the FCC has been reported sent to the White House relating to censorship of international telecasting and broadcasting. Would you care to comment upon your attitude towards such censorship?

THE PRESIDENT. I'm not familiar with it. No, I haven't seen such a memorandum.

Q. What is your attitude toward such a proposal?

THE PRESIDENT. I'd like to see the memorandum. Then I can give you a much more responsive answer.

[24.] Q. Mr. President, there appears to be growing concern among scientists as to the possibility of dangerous long-range side effects from the widespread use of DDT and other pesticides. Have you considered asking the Department of Agriculture or the Public Health Service to take a closer look at this?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, and I know that they already are. I think particularly, of course, since Miss Carson's book,1 but they are examining the matter.

1 Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1962).

[25.] Q. Mr. President, a day after you left California last week, the proposed debate between our Governor and Mr. Nixon blew sky high, and it's been suggested since in public speculation that you advised our Governor to avoid this kind of confrontation. As the reigning champion in this field, f wondered if you would like to tell us whether or not you did discuss this with Governor Brown and also if maybe the time has come when you would tell us what you once suggested you would have advised Mr. Nixon.

THE PRESIDENT. No, but I will say I never did discuss the format with Governor Brown. I understand that Governor Brown is suggesting the format which was used in the '60 campaign, which was used the other night in Boston and which I think is very satisfactory. But they have to work out those details. Now I think that the best-in answer to your last, I will be glad to tell you in November.

[26.] Q. Sir, would you explain how an agreement to be signed only by the currently existing nuclear powers would prevent the arising of other nuclear powers?

THE PRESIDENT. Quite obviously, if other powers went ahead with testing, of course, then the agreement would cease to have very much effectiveness.

It is our hope that the signing by the major nuclear powers today will arrest the spread and not make it essential. But it is only a hope.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Kennedy's forty-second news conference was held in the State Department Auditorium at 4 o'clock on Wednesday afternoon, August 29, 1962.

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

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