Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

February 11, 1960

THE PRESIDENT. I have a statement, but you won't have to take notes, because I believe there will be copies outside. This affects the negotiations for nuclear weapons tests at Geneva.

[Reading] The United States is today presenting in Geneva a proposal, involving the ending of nuclear weapons tests, to end the apparent deadlock in the negotiations. This Government has stood, throughout, for complete abolition of weapons testing subject only to the attainment of agreed and adequate methods of inspection and control. The present proposal is designed to end nuclear weapons tests in all the environments that can now be effectively controlled.

It would end forthwith, under assured controls:

(1) all nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere;

(2) all nuclear weapons tests in the oceans;

(3) all nuclear weapons tests in those regions in space where effective controls can now be agreed to; and

(4) all nuclear weapons tests beneath the surface of the earth which can be monitored.

This proposal will permit, through a coordinated program of research and development, a systematic extension of the ban to the remaining areas, especially those involving underground tests, for which adequate control measures appear not to be possible now.

These are initial but far-reaching and yet readily attainable steps toward a complete ban on nuclear weapons tests. If adopted, they will prevent increases in the level of radioactivity in the atmosphere and so allay worldwide concern. They are steps which offer an opportunity to consolidate the important progress made in the negotiations thus far. It is our hope that the Soviet Union will join with us in this constructive beginning. 1 [Ends reading]


1On the same day the White House released a further statement, covering the same ground but in somewhat greater detail. The statement noted that the new proposal included provision for a program of joint research and experimentation by the United Kingdom, the USSR, and the United States to improve the detection of small tests underground and thus permit the extension of the ban to such tests. It also noted that extensive research and experimentation was already under way in the United States to improve detection instruments and techniques. The White House statement is printed in the Department of State Bulletin (vol. 42, p. 327).

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press International: Mr. President, every day the public is being subjected to a new chapter in the controversy over the missile gap between this country and Russia. Now, this argument, as you are well aware, is being waged in public by men who are supposed to be expert in the defense requirements of the country. Is there anything you can say to us today to explain this controversy to the public; and, in this connection, sir, are you thinking of a nationwide speech on this subject?

THE PRESIDENT. First of all, let me understand the first part of your question, Mr. Smith. You say, "waged by people who are supposed to be expert." Are you speaking now about the people of the Defense Department?

Q. Mr. Smith: Of the Defense Department and on Capitol Hill, too, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. I should think this: it would be fair to use the description "expert" with respect to the people in the Defense Department. That is what they're for. [Laughter]

They do have different ideas, and the trouble of it is that because one Chief or one Secretary or one individual or one technician, far down the line, has a particular idea and exploits this idea and publicizes it highly, that this, according to him, becomes the great judgment to be made in the defense of this country.

Defense of this country is a very wide and comprehensive problem. It is not decided by such a matter as can you make three or two particular weapons in a particular week, or such numbers as that. It is a matter that involves the study and investigations of many staffs, reaching many months into the future.

So these struggles that you talk about among the people in the Defense Department are those things that are brought about when they are required, apparently, and then leaks occur, as to their personal attitude toward the particular weapon or the particular weapons system, and then that becomes a matter of argument.

This I deplore, particularly the methods of publicizing it and making it look like any one of these particular points is the real problem to solve in America's defense.

I want to point out again--possibly I don't need to--that I have been in the military service a long time. I am obviously running for nothing. I want only my country to be strong, to be safe, and to have a feeling of confidence among its people so they can go about their business. And I just want to point out that in the decisions that I have to make--and there are many of them--in the approval of such a system, that I have heard all of the arguments, pro and con, in this individual type of an opinion of which I have been speaking. I have done the best I can, and I am doing it with one idea in mind only--America.

Q. Pat Munroe, Chicago American: Could you fill us in, sir, on the Vice President's role in reshaping the farm message?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, this is the first that I have heard about him reshaping it. I required that he read it, because there seems to be a great probability that in the next few months he is going to be defending what I believe, and the administration believes, is the best way to approach this problem. Naturally, he is completely aware of everything that is in the message, but this is the first I have heard of any reshaping.

Q. William McGaffin, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, you're nearing the end of your term, and you've had a good 7 years of experience with it. Could you tell us, sir, what you think will be the major problems of the man who succeeds you and whether you think they will be any more difficult than the problems that you've had to deal with?

THE PRESIDENT. I think what you are suggesting now is we have sort of an informal conversation, rather than any exposition of specific problems.

The fact is that I think there are two things we must remember. America has become a leader in the world. In many of these aspects it is almost a decisive leader. This means that the problems that come to the presidential desk whether it's a small farm in Dickinson County, Kansas, or a village problem somewhere, or urban renewal, or difficulty in the Mideast or with the Russians, whatever--these things have to be viewed in a broad world context, and then they have to be studied very earnestly, both on their short-term and their long-term effects.

I don't believe that anyone can predict what the next President's problems are really going to be. I have tried to describe, time and again, the ones that I see as important as of this moment and the methods in which I approach them. In so doing, I hope that I am helping to establish a pattern for solving these problems in the manner of reasonable men, never giving way to the so-called ultraliberal that has no other purpose than to give your money away for some pet theory of his own, and on the other hand, to repudiate reaction like you would the devil and all his works.

You've just got to approach these things with the best advice, the best knowledge, the best judgment that the individual or the occupant of the chair can bring to bear, and then solve them. I will point out there is one problem that is always with us, will never be properly or at least perfectly solved, but which all of us must work at.

It is this. You people right here have a very big function to perform. The biggest problem there is for the United States today is to make sure that her own people--her own people--understand the basic issues that face us, and form their own judgment. If we can inform these people properly, then we can be sure that the health and vigor of the democracy will solve them properly. Our great danger is that we are sometimes led down blind alleys by demagogues, or we're too lazy to inform ourselves, or we just say that some popular figure will solve them for us. We've got to inform ourselves. This is the greatest problem. And if we ever solve that one, we can do all the others without any difficulty.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: Mr. President, in relation to your statement about the test ban problem, I think there is one question that you left unanswered, and that is this. Assuming that the Soviet Union would accept this proposal, during the period of the development of new techniques to extend the ban on certain of the underground test problems, would the United States during that period resume underground testing?

THE PRESIDENT. It's a question that, of course, itself has not yet been resolved. I have already told you that laboratory testing--not of weapons testing, but of just the nuclear science--go on all the time. But when it comes down to weapons testing, that is something that we would have to decide with our own allies.

Q. Mr. Roberts: Would that be subject to negotiation as part of this proposed agreement with the Russians?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, no. We are not going to make an agreement, Mr. Roberts, when we can't know, when we cannot have any information as to whether or not it will be carried out by the other fellow as well as ourselves. That's what the problem is about. You see, we have been asked, time and again, to stop all testing and, indeed, to eliminate all bombs just by everybody unilaterally and voluntarily doing so. This is the kind of a system we will not accept. We say there must be adequate examination, verification, and enforcement.

Q. Charles W. Roberts, Newsweek: In connection with the first question asked you today, sir, when the congressional leaders came out of your office on Tuesday, they said that they thought the hearings on Capitol Hill concerning our defense--that some people, apparently running for office, had performed a disservice to the country and, furthermore, by undermining morale, that they had also breached security. Do you accept both of these charges?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I didn't read them. I have heard them for the first time right now.

I am trying to keep my own statements outside the partisan field. I am trying to dedicate, as I have in the past, my efforts toward securing the United States in the fields of foreign relations and in defense. I think we should be big enough not to seek headlines. I think we should be big enough to put our heads together and see if we can get a real solution.

While I admit I have not specifically answered your question, I am giving you my belief about the whole matter.

Q. Felix Belair, New York Times: Mr. President, is there any ready answer to published suggestions that it is somehow defeatist to spend not quite so much money for defense or bigger defense and more and more for fancy tail fins and other things like that? That has been written about lately.

THE PRESIDENT. I don't quite understand your question.

Q. Mr. Belair: Well, you see, the argument seems to suggest, sir-and it came up yesterday at Canaveral--that much more could be spent, for instance, on missile development, to put us nearer to where the Russians now are. The argument seems to ignore what you have already said about our defense planning being based more on the adequacy of a deterrent. But the argument attributes to you, sir, the view that in all of these expenditures we must always have an eye on the budget, to maintain our fiscal responsibility, and that in emphasizing the need for a balanced budget, we thereby hold down expenditures for these purposes to a point that is not really necessary in our economy.

THE PRESIDENT. In this present case it would seem to me their argument is not too good, because I have put in the budget $4,200 million for surplus.

Now, if anyone, by any kind of hysterical argument, is going to make me say that fiscal responsibility in this country is not important; indeed, if they can prove that you can continue to go deeper and deeper and deeper into debt, without finally paying a very great cost in the Nation's security, I'd like to see how they prove their case.

Now, that does not mean that any budget I've ever put up has been put together on the basis of just achieving a balanced budget. I have tried to calculate and form the judgments about the needs of the United States, and I must say that I try to put need above pressure-group inducement, before local argument, before every kind of any pressure except that that America needs. I don't believe in putting luxury and extravagance ahead of need. But having satisfied the need, I believe we should go ahead with such policies and programs that the United States believes will be helpful and are in keeping with our Constitution and our institutions, and at the same time get this fiscal business into such control that we can have prosperity in the future as well as thinking we have it merely when we begin to debase our currency.

Q. Lambert Brose, Lutheran Layman: Mr. President, last fall, in connection with the TV quiz scandals, District Attorney Hogan stated that more than 100 people had committed perjury before a New York State grand jury--I think it was New York State. I am sure the American people bear no personal malice toward these individuals, and maybe this is a State matter. But do you have any information, sir: one, whether indictments will be brought--I think only one or two have--and, two, if indictments are not brought, do you think this might undermine confidence somewhat in our system of equal justice under law?

THE PRESIDENT. As you say, it obviously is a State matter.

Now, I don't think it's necessary here for me to stress the importance I put on, you might say, public morality. I believe that public morality finally became involved in this matter, and I think that every echelon of government that may have a responsibility ought to be working on the matter and see that it doesn't happen again.

Q. John scale, Associated Press: Mr. President, Premier Khrushchev had some very blunt things to say to Italy's President, Mr. Gronchi, this week about world affairs generally. He talked about West Berlin, Germany, and Russia's power, generally. And among the things Mr. Khrushchev is quoted as saying is this: "Our flag is flying on the moon. This means something. Is this not enough to prove the superiority of communism over capitalism?" What do you think of such remarks?

THE PRESIDENT. I think it's crazy.

I tried to point out to you the other day that in an industrial complex of the strength of Russia's, with its vast territory and resources, its people, and its great imaginative and competent scientists, that if it wants to put all of its strength in a particular field of activity--and, remember, secretly undertaken--of course it can come out with spectacular achievements. And let's not try to blind ourselves about it. But my contention is we should not be hysterical when dictatorships do these things.

As a matter of fact, Hitler was rather successful in keeping secret from many people the strength of the forces he actually had when he went in 1939 into Poland, and how much he had with which to smash the Western allies in Western Europe.

All of these things are possible, but they are not things that we should, in what we believe is a broader and better type of civilization, let dismay us.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, in view of your own expressed philosophy that defense should not be a partisan issue, do you not think it was wrong for six top officials of the Defense Department to accept invitations to speak at fund-raising "Dinners with Ike," planned by the Republican Party?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't think so. As a matter of fact, are you going to change all the traditions and the habits of America since we formed two parties way back at the time of Jefferson and Hamilton?

Q. Mrs. McClendon: Well, sir--

THE PRESIDENT. Now, just a minute, and I'll finish your question. These people are politically appointed. They are not, and should not, indulge in talking about the failures of others of which I personally, and on both sides of the House, believe there have been many in years going past. Certainly they did in the Indian wars, if we want to get back to a place that is certainly nonpartisan. [Laughter]

For these people to report what they're doing and why they're doing it and to show the reasoning in which they have reached their decisions is far from harmful; it is helpful, in my opinion.

Q. John R. Gibson, Wall Street Journal: Mr. President, on the disarmament question, is it your feeling that the U.S., Britain, and Russia pretty well have to reach an agreement on the nuclear test situation before there is much chance for making any further headway on the broader disarmament question, either at the 10-nations meeting or at the summit conference meeting?

THE PRESIDENT. I am not now trying to express the opinions of any study group or any opinions other than my own. I believe that we are probably tackling the most difficult of all problems in this disarmament thing when we put all our attention on nuclear testing and nuclear use. Here is something, our scientists have testified over the years, that even if today you stop manufacturing plutonium and U-235, you could still conceal such an amount of destructive power that, to start at this end of the thing to establish the kind of inspection systems that are necessary, we are probably taking the most thorny thing and allowing that to keep us from other places.

Now, in testing I think the program that we put forward today is a good one and ought to lead finally to even a better one. But I think that we should look at disarmament on such a broad scale that we can find the areas where we can make progress, but not letting this one bar us from some progress along the line. Only as we make progress of this kind is there going to be a real lessening of tension.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, do you have any new appraisal of our missile program on the basis of your visit to Canaveral yesterday?

THE PRESIDENT. On that one I think, possibly except for some secret specification or something else, I think you people learned just exactly as much as I did.

I would say this, as I said that day: I was impressed by the businesslike atmosphere in this whole facility. There seemed to be a minimum of extravagance and luxury and a maximum of efficiency and competence and real dedication to the problem at hand. I felt this: I came back with a very much better feeling than I had before I went down there.

Q. Spencer Davis, Associated Press: The Chinese Communists, sir, have said that they would not take part in any disarmament agreement in which they had no hand in formulating. At what point, sir, do you think they should come into a worldwide disarmament agreement?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it's perfectly clear that such a big territory and such a great population could not be ignored when you are talking about general disarmament. Once we can make any kind of progress between the West and the Soviets and its satellites, I think that there will have to be some kind of mechanism in which we can bring these people into some kind of agreement, if it is going to be successful.

Q. M. Stewart Hensley, United Press International: Mr. President, with respect to the nuclear test ban, you say that you are proposing to ban the underground tests which can be verified. Is Ambassador Wadsworth going to, at the Geneva talks, put any specific level on that thing? In other words, there's been disagreement between the Russians and our scientists on this, whether it's below 20 kilotons, 30 kilotons, and so forth. Are you going to propose any specific threshold there, or is that a subject for negotiation?

THE PRESIDENT. I think it is a subject for negotiation, but it will, of course, have to go back finally to our technical people--what their conclusions are.

Q. Jack Raymond, New York Times: Mr. President, there have been various figures published on Soviet-United States missile strength. Do you believe that these have damaged the security of the country?


Q. Mr. Raymond: Do you believe these figures that have been published have damaged the security of the country, and do you expect to do anything about that?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think the figures mean a lot.

Q. Edward V. Koterba, United Features Syndicate: Mr. President, somewhat in line with your reply to Mr. McGaffin, there have been some published suggestions that you become an honorary Senator after your term as President. What are your thoughts about accepting an official job as advice-giver after 1960?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would think that that's one of those questions that the answer would have to await the offer.

Q. Earl H. Voss, Washington Star: Mr. President, if the Russians accept your new proposal on nuclear tests, could you give us your evaluation of the effect this would have on nuclear weapons development? I have in mind particularly our theories which I understand have been proved that, according to the "big hole" theory, large nuclear explosions can be concealed.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the very large ones, I don't think could be concealed, not practically, and certainly not periodically.

I would think this: the proposal, with all its ramifications, is going to be studied and discussed. I think we should better wait to see what are the objections and the supporting arguments that are brought forward at Geneva before we try to make conclusions of exactly what the effect will be. There could be all kinds of proposals, but all of them, as I see it, would bring some kind of inspection that so far has not been agreed to by the Soviets.

Q. Jerry O'Leary, Washington Star: Mr. President, the Senators passed a $1,800 million education bill with teachers' salaries as well as buildings. Would you like to see the House scale that down some?

THE PRESIDENT. To go further than that, I would say this: I do not believe the Federal Government ought to be in the business of paying a local official. If we're going into that, we'll have to find out every councilman and every teacher and every other person that's a public official of any kind, or public servant, and try to figure out what his right salary is. I can't imagine anything worse for the Federal Government to be into.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, speaking of public morality and basic issues as we have been today, at the congressional "payola" hearings yesterday a disc jockey likened the giving of gifts and money by record companies to these record spinners, as they're called, to the exercise of competing for a teacher's favors with an apple. And he went on to say--I'm quoting his testimony from the New York Times: "This seems to be the American way of life, which is a wonderful way of life. It's primarily built on romance--I'll do for you, what will you do for me?"

On the eve of Lincoln's birthday, do you have any comments on those things? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think that the shades of Lincoln would have possibly any great approval for what I might think and say. But I'll tell you this, that when we get to the place where the right of people to use the airwaves, under license of Government, and then they can use this just for personal gain over and above the purposes for which they're hired, then I think there is public morality involved. And I think this fellow, whoever he was, talking that way just hadn't thought through the implications of the, let's say, the alibi that he was setting forth.

Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and eightieth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:30 to 11:01 o'clock on Thursday morning, February 11, 1960. In attendance: 235.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/234304

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