Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

March 16, 1960

THE. PRESIDENT. I'm ready for questions.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press International: Mr. President, for the benefit of some of us who were not present at a dinner you attended Saturday night--[laughter]--we understand that you made some remarks that were regarded as quite politically significant concerning the Vice President, and we wonder, sir, if you can reconstruct those remarks for us today?

THE PRESIDENT. First of all, I believe at this meeting, it says, no reporters are ever present. I'm certain that no guest would be guilty of talking about something in the public domain that should have been in the social domain.

But as long as it's out by some mysterious way, I don't mind clarifying what I had to say, or at least what I thought; what I had to say could not possibly be reconstructed because I was talking about the geographical areas in which certain people were sitting at a party.

But if anyone is wondering whether I have any personal preference or even bias with respect to this upcoming presidential race, the answer is yes, very definitely. [Laughter]

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post: Mr. President, you have indicated in one way or another that you hope to do something in the campaign insofar as your duties will permit. It's been suggested that you might make a keynote speech at the Republican Convention. Is that likely?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know. I haven't been invited. But I say this: I would want to give such support as I could. I think there are certain limits, for the simple reason that no candidate wants it to appear that he has someone that is the authority that has helped to nominate him and to put him in his position of prominence that he would now occupy. So I think there has to be very good judgment exercised. But if I am asked to give some help, why, I'd certainly want to try to do it.

Q. Mr. Folliard: Did you say, sir, that you have been invited to make the keynote speech?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I said I have not been invited--not invited.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: On the record, Mr. President, you have frequently spoken out, emphasized the importance of what you sometimes describe as human value, including moral courage. I wonder if you consider the current Gandhi-like passive resistance demonstrations of Negroes in the South as worthy of identification as manifestations of moral courage, or whether you disapprove of them?

THE PRESIDENT. It's difficult, Mr. Morgan, to give a sweeping judgment. Some are unquestionably a proper expression of a conviction of the group which is making them; others probably can be otherwise classified.

Now, let me make one thing clear. I am deeply sympathetic with the efforts of any group to enjoy the rights, the rights of equality that they are guaranteed by the Constitution. I do not believe that violence in any form furthers that aspiration, and I deplore any violence that is exercised to prevent them--in having and enjoying those rights. So, while I don't want to make any judgment because I am not in position to--I know about these as they come just briefly to my attention, I do not know what all of them are--I do know, though, that if a person is expressing such an aspiration as this in a perfectly legal way, then I don't see any reason why he should not do it.

Q. Charles H. Mohr, Time Magazine: Mr. President, in an earlier answer you suggested it might be a disadvantage to a candidate to have it thought that he had a patron. Do you think that it might also be a disadvantage to a candidate to have another powerful figure speaking out on the same issue but perhaps not in perfect coordination, and in such a case would you plan to broadly coordinate your position on policies and programs with the Republican nominee?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, if I happen to have any difference with him I would certainly not publicize it.

Now, so far as I know, there has never been between Mr. Nixon and myself, and that's who you are talking about--[laughter]--so far as I know, there has never been a specific difference in our points of view on any important problem in 7 years.

There has been free discussion in every meeting that I have ever held, and he has certainly been, always, not only free but even requested to give his honest opinions on these things. In certain details or points there naturally are differences that I have with everybody, because I seem to have a genius for that.

But I do say this: there has been never an important division of opinion or conviction. Therefore, if I were wanted in this field, in a perfectly proper and restricted activity, I would not feel the need to go down through every word of what I had to say with anybody, including Mr. Nixon himself.

Q. Felix Belair, New York Times: You have been represented, sir, as supporting the candidacy for Governor of Puerto Rico of Mr. Luis Ferre', whom you gave a ride to Washington, I think, from Ramey. If that is so, does it include his sponsorship of statehood for the Island?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I have talked to Mr. Ferre' one time; that was when I got the opportunity. When he said he was coming to Washington, I said, "Come with me; I want to hear what you are talking about." He is a Republican candidate, I understand. I believe that he is not in any primary struggle or anything of that kind.

Now, he told me about his views. I said these are things that have not been the subject of party policy in the United States, so far as I understand; until they are brought up before that party and studied, well, I have not yet come to any conviction that I would want to express.

Q. Mr. Belair: Do you support his candidacy, is what I wondered. I mean aside from statehood?

THE PRESIDENT. I assume that like all other good Republicans, if I could vote there, I would vote Republican.

Q. William H. Y. Knighton, Jr., Baltimore Sun: Mr. President, in answer to Mr. Smith's question, you used the word "bias." Were you also speaking there of Mr. Nixon?

THE PRESIDENT. Was there any doubt in your mind?

Q. Mr. Knighton: No, sir. [Laughter]

Q. John Scali, Associated Press: A West German newspaper reported today that Premier Khrushchev in his latest letter to you has promised not to stir up any trouble between now and the next election. Could you tell us whether this is true, and could you discuss with us in general terms the letter that you got from the Soviet Premier?

THE PRESIDENT. First of all, I have made it clear I will not reveal the tenor and details of messages that pass back and forth between me and any other head of state or head of government unless there is some kind of agreement that this should be done, or because someone else has either deliberately or inadvertently exposed the correspondence; then, I would have to.

I can merely say this: the detail of which you speak had nothing whatsoever to do with the latest correspondence between Mr. Khrushchev and me.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, back to these racial problems in the South, you said they come to your desk briefly. Do we not feel that this situation is of so grave injustice on both sides that it requires your great attention? Could you not call a conference at the White House of Southern leaders to sit down and go over this thing and come to some constructive program about what could be done?

THE PRESIDENT. Do you know what I think? I think there ought to be biracial conferences in every city and every community of the South, which would be much better than trying to get up here and direct every single thing from Washington. I am one of those people that believes there is too much interference in our private affairs and, you might say, personal lives already. And I would like to diminish rather than increase it.

Now, when it comes to the matter of enforcing the Constitution, which is a different thing from having some kind of orderly or even disorderly activity that is involved in the matter of racial equality--that is a different thing than the United States trying to enforce the Constitution, because one is a local matter for local authorities; the other is something with which the United States must be concerned. That is why we are trying to get a civil rights bill through the Congress.

So, you must not in your thinking take a local incident, whether it be a protest meeting or a march through the streets or anything else; that is not in the same category as getting the voting rights of a Negro in the South protected and insured. That's entirely two different subjects.

Q. Lowell K. Bridwell, Scripps-Howard Newspapers: Mr. President, late last summer when you signed the legislation increasing the motor fuel tax one cent a gallon, I believe you requested General Bragdon to make a comprehensive survey of the highway program, particularly as it related to the interstate system. Can you tell us what were the principal findings of that survey and whether you have made any administrative changes as a result?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I couldn't say too much to you about it this morning because, first of all, it was a personal advisory thing to me. In other words, should I recommend to the Congress any differences or should there be any administrative changes within the present law, as to what we should do.

What I was really trying to find out from General Bragdon is, what are we doing and does it seem to accord with the law and the legislative history.

I have not had any thought of putting this out, because it's a matter between General Bragdon and myself.

Q. Spencer Davis, Associated Press: Mr. President, the United States has fought to preserve democracy in Korea, a country in which we express great concern. Do you have any comment on the election which they have just completed there, and is there a possibility that you may visit the country in June?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, no plans with respect to a visit; no plans are yet formalized for any other visits except those that I have already published.

Now, all the reports that I have are that there was some violence, which I deplore. I have no other information from which I could say that there had been any violation of democratic processes in the election itself.

Q. John M. Hightower, Associated Press: Mr. President, yesterday you had an opportunity to talk with Chancellor Adenauer. There have been many reports that the Chancellor was worried or concerned in some manner about your policy line on West Berlin in connection with a summit conference.

Could you tell us something of your discussion with him?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I refer you to the joint statement which was issued last--I guess it was issued last evening--[confers with Mr. Hagerty]--issued last evening. That states, I think, the case exactly.

We agreed that there was no change in policy on either side.

Q. John R. Gibson, Wall Street Journal: On Cuba, sir, you have announced a policy of non-reprisals toward the Castro Government. In line with that, could you explain the reason for your changes in the sugar act that some Cubans are taking as a reprisal?

THE PRESIDENT. I think they have no justification for taking it for a reprisal whatsoever.

The United States consumes a very great amount of sugar every year, and there have been many activities taking place in Cuba that could easily endanger our source of supply. We have been getting on the order of 3,500,000 tons of sugar from Cuba yearly.

I have got the responsibility of trying to make sure that the United States gets the sugar it needs--one of the reasons that, if any of these supplying areas should fall down in supplying its quota, then I should have the right, in my opinion, to go to somebody else to get it. That's all it said, in effect.

I have flatly stated again and again that we are not trying to punish Cuba, particularly the Cuban people or even the Cuban Government. We are trying to get to a basis of agreement with them that is based upon justice, on international usage and law, and so that the interests of both sides are protected.

Q. Ruth S. Montgomery, Hearst Headline Service: Mr. President, can you tell us anything about your plans for retirement and whether you plan to write another book?

THE PRESIDENT. I must tell you, Miss Montgomery, that I have no plans whatsoever.

I am sure you would understand a number of publishers have suggested some possibilities of this kind. My reply has always been, I have no plans yet, I'll have to wait a few months.

Q. Earl H. Voss, Washington Star: Mr. President, the Soviet Union this morning has elaborated somewhat on Khrushchev's 4-year plan for full disarmament at Geneva. They have suggested in the first stage a cut in the armed forces of the United States, Russia, and Communist China, to 1.7 million men in a period of a year to 18 months.

Now, there is another provision that their 4-year package be accepted as a package, this would be a part of it.

Do you envision any kind of negotiation with Communist China over armed forces cuts in a disarmament plan?

THE PRESIDENT. If disarmament, and disarmament programs, come into the realm of practical negotiation and enforcement, as you go progressively along that road, you will unquestionably have to take into account the armaments of Red China. We are not yet into that stage.

The United States has proposed a plan for progressive disarmament and under stages. We think it is a practical and workable plan. We are trying to get the things that now seem within reach, trying to get them accomplished in the first stage, and to go on from there.

So, I should say that in our thinking there has to be a very great deal of progress before we are into the stage of worrying too much about Red China.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: Mr. President, Secretary Herter told us that you had ruled against any change in the 10,000-foot flight ceiling into Berlin. The Russians have backed down on the Berlin pass issue, and some people have seemed to conclude that there is some sort of a working agreement between yourself and Mr. Khrushchev, sort of a--let's not rock the boat before the summit.

Is there in fact any such agreement, or how do you explain this; such incidents as this seem to balance each other to some degree.

THE PRESIDENT. I don't explain anything, and there is no such agreement. I just tell the facts.

Now, you've been told the facts about the passes, and I believe that it was stated publicly--maybe it was speculation, I'm not sure whether it was--it was in a report that Mr. Khrushchev had been said to comment that he did not want to stir up any trouble just now, and because it was before the summit. He never said such a thing to me, and I am not sure that it is true.

Now, for myself, the Chiefs of Staff originally thought there might be an operational need for flying more than 10,000 feet, and therefore study and coordination with our allies was directed. When I came back from South America, the reports that came in were to the contrary, there was no operational need whatsoever. I said, therefore, we will drop it, we will not do it. That's all there was to it.

Q. Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, as a result of your understanding with Mr. Khrushchev at Camp David last September, do you feel obliged to attempt to reach a settlement on Berlin in the forthcoming summit meeting?

THE PRESIDENT. What I have said, and said to him: within the limits that we would not abandon our position respecting our rights in Berlin, and our belief and our conviction that the Berlin question will never finally be settled except with the background of a settlement of a divided Germany, and remembering one more, that what has been called our juridical position will not be touched and will not be damaged--within that context I am perfectly ready to talk about Berlin and Germany at any time.

To deny that you will talk or try to negotiate as long as your position of right and principle has been established would, to my mind, be a great mistake.

Q. Frank van der Linden, Nashville Banner: Sir, Senator Humphrey of Minnesota and the Southern Democrats seem finally to have agreed on one subject, that is that Paul Butler should go out as Democratic National Chairman. I wondered, sir, if you would like to make that unanimous?

THE PRESIDENT. If the Democrats have any troubles, I am not going to try to help them out. [Laughter]

Q. David Kraslow, Knight Newspapers: Mr. President, did you find in South America as much concern over the behavior of the Castro Government as there is in the United States? And could you discuss this briefly with us, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, they are concerned because no one understands exactly what is happening, but the talks I had with these several Presidents were confidential, and I wouldn't want to violate their confidences.

This matter, this subject, was brought up numbers of times with different ministers. So far as I can recall, there was no one that criticized the attitude of the United States as has been expressed by myself and by Mr. Herter--that is, of trying to find solutions for these difficulties, avoiding anything that sounds like bullyragging or dominating a weaker people.

We are friendly with the Cuban people and we want to get the kind of understanding with their government that will make mutual progress feasible.

Now, as I say, that policy which our friends down south know was, so far as I heard, approved by them.

Q. Thomas N. Schroth, Congressional Quarterly: Mr. President, two key points in the administration's civil rights bills, those coveting Government contracts conditions and the aid to areas that are desegregating schools, have been cut out of the House version. Are you going to urge your Senate leaders to restore them when the bill gets to the Senate?

THE PRESIDENT. I shall continue to say that this bill was brought up after all kinds of conferences I could get. As you know, I am trying to find a moderate, reasonable path that points to progress. So, I believe in this bill, and I'm going to ask for it. Of course, I want the best bill the Congress will give me in this very troublesome and sensitive area.

Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: Businessmen seem to be somewhat apprehensive about the economic outlook which appears to have lost some of its luster since January. What is your own assessment for the economic outlook for the rest of the year?

THE PRESIDENT. I think it is very healthy and very fine.

Now, of course, people are always looking at curves of past performance, and they always want to have a recovery curve mounting more steeply. There were some rather bold predictions made as late as December and early January and even early February. I think that my own advisers have always counseled to take a moderate target, but they have always said this: the outlook for American business is indeed good.

Q. Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register and Tribune: Mr. President, Vice President Nixon very recently established an independent advisory committee on agriculture to develop some kind of a farm program, independent of the administration. And I wondered if he had ever discussed with you this agricultural situation and expressed any dissatisfaction or anything like that.

THE PRESIDENT. AS a matter of fact I know he was party with the agricultural program that I sent down to the Congress. I don't know about this development you speak of; I suspect it's something to bring into sharper focus some of the local problems that will be encountered in any campaign. I haven't talked further than that with the Vice President about it.

Q. L. Edgar Prina, Washington Star: Mr. President, in reply to an earlier question on lunch counter demonstrations, you said that you believed that all persons were guaranteed equal rights. Now, do you believe that Negroes have guaranteed rights to eat with whites at lunch counters, and if so, do you not then believe that the Federal Government has some role to play in the present situation?

THE PRESIDENT. So far as I know, this matter of types of segregation in the South has been brought time and again before the Supreme Court. Now, I certainly am not lawyer enough or wise enough in this area to know when a matter is such as actually to violate the constitutional rights of the Negroes.

My own understanding is that when an establishment belongs to the public, opened under public charter and so on, equal fights are involved; but I am not sure that this is the case whatsoever.

I was talking about demonstrations, of marching in the streets, or any other kind of peaceful assembly that is trying to show what the aspirations and the desires of a people are. Those, to my mind, as long as they are in orderly fashion, are not only constitutional, they have been recognized in our country as proper since we have been founded.

Now, the different types, different ways in which resentment or defiance could be expressed, I couldn't possibly go into all those details; I don't know.

Q. Rutherford M. Poats, United Press International: Sir, a moment ago you described the Western disarmament plan as a practical step-by-step approach. 'Would you characterize for us, sir, the Soviet plan for a 4-year package approach to this problem?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, no, I don't want to characterize anything at the moment. I just believe that our plan is a better one on which to start for a disarmament in some scale than is theirs; but I don't want to characterize it with any adjective or in any other particular type.

Q. Donald H. Shannon, Los Angeles Times: Mr. Butler had some "leak" problems himself just recently and he was reported as having said that Senator Kennedy appears to have the leading role, as far as getting the Democratic nomination. I know it's no concern of yours, but if you will be involved very seriously in the campaign, as you said today, does it appear to you that Kennedy is out in front for the other party's nomination?

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't say I would be involved very seriously; I said if I were asked, and a candidate from my party thinks I can be useful, then I will do what I can. I am not going to make any predictions for the other side, but this is a political year, and I'll just keep still about it and be wiser. [Laughter]

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

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and eighty-second news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:30 to 11 o'clock on Wednesday morning, March 16, 1960. In attendance: 248.

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/235411

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