Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

February 17, 1960

THE PRESIDENT. Good morning. I am ready for questions.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, just before your trip in December, you went on nationwide television and radio to discuss that tour. Do you plan to do the same thing in connection with your South American tour and, if so, is there any possibility of your talk dealing as well with national defense?

THE PRESIDENT. I'm expecting to make a television talk of 15 minutes at 6:15 on Sunday evening. I'm leaving early Monday. The talk will be in the general tone of the one that I made before I went to Asia, and I would suppose that such items as security and strength and so on would, of course, be included.

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, in recent weeks, spokesmen for the Navy seem to have admitted that it discriminates against American ships in trade with Israel.

In the view of--judgment of--critics it does this by discouraging the owners of such ships from bidding on transportation that involves the use of Arab ports, because the Arabs refuse to accommodate the vessel. The effect, these critics say, is to comply with the Arab boycott of Israel. Would you say that this was in line with our foreign policy?

THE PRESIDENT. Certainly not within our policy. Right after the Suez incident, you recall that the United States joined in saying that if the operation of the canal was not so conducted as to be fair to the traffic of all nations, that this should be a cause of action by the united group. I believe this matter has been up in the United Nations; I know it has-well, I believe it has, put it that way. Certainly the United States has always stood for that principle.

I didn't know about the incidents to which you refer, and I would suggest you ask the Navy Department itself about that.

Q. Warren W. Unna, Washington Post: In this morning's paper, sir, there is an account of an Air Force Reserve Training Manual which is casting reflection on the integrity of the church and possible Communist infiltration of it, as well as the people's right to know what is going on in their Government. I wondered if you'd seen this, and if you have any comment on it, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. It was brought to my attention this morning. I understand the Secretary of Air found out about it very recently, that he has recalled the thing and repudiates it as a statement of Air Force policy.

Q. Charles W. Roberts, Newsweek: Sir, in view of the increasing importance of the Vice Presidency and the ever-present possibility that he might succeed to the Presidency, do you feel that the vice presidential nominee of your party should be handpicked by the presidential nominee as he has been traditionally in the past, or that there should be an open convention, or that perhaps the vice presidential contenders compete in State primaries?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I wouldn't know any reason for them abstaining from competition in primaries.

One thing we must remember: if we are going to have this closer relationship between President and Vice President, which during these last 7 years has been rather violative of tradition, then these two have to be people that are friends. They have to be people that have a certain mutual respect. That comes about because of the fact that the presidential nominee has some say in who the vice presidential nominee is.

In my own case I don't mind telling you, in 1952 I put down a list of men who would be completely acceptable to me. It was not a long one, but it was certainly comprehensive, and I gave--turned over--to the Convention, or the people in charge of it--I said you can take anybody here and the Convention can have its nominations and so make and give their decision.

There are a lot of factors of that kind in the thing, but I do believe that only in few instances, probably, has there been any case where the nominee, the presidential nominee, has complete authority in this matter.

Q. Felix Belair, New York Times: Can you say, sir, whether in your opinion the United States should pay more for Cuban sugar than the price made available by that government to Russia?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you're getting into a question we've been studying a long time around this Government. The treaty with Cuba is one of long standing, concerning their preferred position in our sugar market. We must not forget that we want to be dealing in such a way that the Cuban people, who are our friends, are treated justly and there is no action taken that in the long run would be detrimental to them.

As I understand it from this latest report coming out of Mikoyan's visit, the Cubans are proposing to sell sugar at the world price and, as far as I can see, on more of a barter basis. We pay more than the world price, and we pay in completely convertible currency, so that they have complete freedom.

Now, there have been a number of traditional economic relationships that have been either repudiated or disturbed or changed by the Cubans in the last few months. I would hope that this whole thing can be worked out so that the Cuban people will not suffer, and that the relationships between those people and our people will remain firm.

Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, in your farm message last week, you suggested to Congress that you would now be willing to accept some things such as stricter controls that you seemed to oppose before. Was that change prompted by, as some people suggested, by the hope that it might help the Republicans win more votes in the Farm Belt this year?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it wasn't done in that particular thing, but I would hope that it would appeal to a lot of people and, therefore, get more votes; of course I do..

The point is, last year I suggested two different methods; before that, I have sent down time and again a rather detailed bill, list of recommendations, that I thought would help the situation. It has gone so long and in such a bad way that no cure can be brought about rapidly, nor in a revolutionary fashion. Everybody knows that.

So I put down what I preferred, but I said within certain guidelines I would accept anything that didn't violate just good sense and trying to get the matter better on the rails.

About controls, I said they must be realistically related to support prices. And that has a very deep meaning in that phrase.

Q. Charles H. Mohr, Time Magazine: Mr. President, Chancellor Adenauer has expressed anxiety that any new interim agreement on West Berlin might erode the Western position there, and be worse than the situation that now prevails. He also seems obviously worried about allied intentions. What are those--

THE PRESIDENT. Allied what?

Q. Mr. Mohr: Intentions.

THE PRESIDENT. All right.

Q. Mr. Mohr: And May 16 is some time off, but can you talk any about what these intentions are? And especially in view of the fact you once called that situation abnormal.

THE PRESIDENT. Of course the situation is abnormal. But this is what would be my answer to your question: the three Western Powers of Britain, France, and the United States, in a variety of ways keep in very close touch and collaboration with the Government of the Federal Republic. We certainly expect, to go to the summit, that any views to be expressed there will represent the common convictions of the four of us. Now, that is all I can say in detail in that matter.

Q. Lambert Brose, Lutheran Layman: Mr. President, you referred before to Mr. Mikoyan's visit to Cuba. And a month or two ago, J. Edgar Hoover, talking about another famous Russian's visit to our country, said that Mr. Khrushchev's visit had some effect in making Americans more receptive to communism. Since it's the FBI's job to detect subversive activities in this country, is Mr. Hoover perhaps understandably but unduly sensitive and apprehensive in this matter, or do you think his contention might have some merit?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't talked to Mr. Hoover about the effect of Mr. Khrushchev's visit. I have stayed in very close touch with him over the years. He is a man for whom I have the greatest respect, not only for his views but for him as a character, as a public servant.

Now, this is what I do know about his views: once I proposed that we study a matter of just inviting a very great number of Russians, particularly students, into our country. He looked it over and said it would not increase the difficulties in his department whatsoever.

What he thinks about this one, I don't know; I've never talked to him about it.

Q. Robert C. Pierpoint, CBS News: Mr. President, in view of Vice President Nixon's troubles in his visit to Latin America, I wonder if the Secret Service or any of our other organizations of that nature are particularly concerned about your personal safety during your trip to Latin America and, if so, could you tell us what special measures they may have taken?

THE PRESIDENT. On the contrary; they have said no word to me about it. And, remember, the Secret Service limit their efforts to giving information and help to the local people. Our Secret Service have no authority in these sovereign countries, and certainly they couldn't widen or, by their own volition, establish a more firm security establishment.

This is what I feel about it: in any place in the world you have some elements that want to cause a little trouble and to show a little bit of discourtesy. They might here. But when you've got a purpose that is directed toward the vast bulk of the people that you meet, you just can't worry about these things; and I don't think the Secret Service worries too much about those. Certainly they haven't told me they do.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, we note that the father of your daughter-in-law is about to embark on a career in Florida politics. I'm wondering, as another old Army man who got into politics, if you had any friendly advice for Colonel Thompson. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'll tell you, Mr. Scherer, I learned about this this morning, because my wife seems to read the paper in which there is this kind of news, so she called me in to read it to me. Now, that's all I know about it. And I think if he wanted any advice from me, he'd ask for it.

Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, a few days ago France exploded its first atomic bomb. Since then, there have been reports that the French may explode a second one, and possibly a hydrogen device later. Are you concerned by this French action, or do you regard it as strengthening the overall defensive capacity of the West?

THE PRESIDENT. If you go back to 1947, one of the arguments that Mr. Baruch presented in the United Nations, in the committee of which he was the chairman, and to the Russians, that one of the great risks we wanted to avoid was that of having many nations developing this kind of a device, this kind of a weapon.

I think it's only natural that first Britain and then France have done this, in the circumstances of life as we now understand them and know them. I would hope that we could get the kind of agreements among the larger nations, that have already done this thing to make sure that other nations don't want to go into the expense of going into this kind of an armament race, that would stop this whole thing in its tracks.

This is not easy. We must realize that this spirit of nationalism of which we hear so much is not felt just by the underdeveloped nations, the ones that the people want to be suddenly independent; it is felt by all of us. The matters of pride and national prestige impel people to do things, I think at times, that would not be necessary.

But I would say this, that our great hope is for agreement where we can stop the thing where it is.

Q. M. Stewart Hensley, United Press International: Mr. President, in this connection the Russians yesterday at Geneva turned down the plan you proposed last week to ban all tests except the smaller underground ones. They countered with a proposal under which they would permit Western inspection teams to make a limited number of checks of any suspicious explosion in the Soviet Union. Do you think this means we're getting closer together on this? What do you think about their counter?

THE PRESIDENT. First of all, as a practical measure, I thought the proposal we put forward was a very good one, and it would certainly establish a very good position while we went along with the technical and political conversations that might lead toward the total ban that both sides profess to want.

Now, the Soviet proposal does seem to change the criteria that they are ready to observe, which would establish the need for inspection. But when they say a limited number, obviously you've got a very long argument coming in, because now you get into the old numbers racket that everybody seems to love so much; just exactly what is adequate would be a very difficult thing.

I say this: it does seem to be a move away from a position that formerly looked completely rigid, and it certainly is going to be studied.

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, President George Meany yesterday said that business groups and the Eisenhower administration have joined hands in raising quote, "the phantom of runaway inflation" as a means of depressing wages. Do you care to comment on this observation by Mr. Meany, and do you regard the whole problem of wages, prices, and inflation as a fit subject for the forthcoming summit conference on labor-management relations?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'm not going to comment on Mr. Meany's remarks, one reason being that he makes his remarks in an entire speech; I haven't read it, and therefore I don't know its context.

To accuse somebody else of bad faith, in my opinion, is just not a way to win arguments. I try to take anybody's convictions and expressed opinions and weigh them against facts and logic as I understand them. I'm not trying to say that someone is guilty of pushing a particular doctrinaire position or doing anything else merely because, in this case, the administration believes that we should have sound fiscal arrangements, avoid deficits that we pass on to our children and therefore spur inflation. Inflation, in the long run, in my mind, is a tremendous and always-present difficulty and risk that we must face every day of our life, as long as we live, in a free country.

Q. Lillian Levy, National Jewish Post and Opinion: Mr. President, in a speech recently, Senator Javits said that it would be in the best interests of this country to join with Israel in a mutual defense pact. He pointed to the fact that Soviet arms and military personnel are flowing into the middle east Arab countries, and expressed the view that a defense pact with Israel would serve as a deterrent to any Soviet-inspired or -encouraged Arab military action there. In view of present tensions in the area, would you comment on Senator Javits' recommendation?

THE PRESIDENT. As a matter of fact, I didn't read this particular recommendation. I have heard similar ones from many people.

The United States, as a matter of policy, has never been a major supplier of arms for Israel and doesn't intend to be, nor to any other country in the area.

As a matter of fact, I went to the United Nations and, making a talk about the whole Mideast situation, said if these countries could get together in any kind of a program or plan for the economic development of the whole region, the United States would be greatly interested in dealing with the whole group.

Now, with regard to the allegations of the arms the Soviet are sending in there; of course they have. We know they've been in that area, but Israel has also been getting arms from Britain and France for a long time. Frankly, I think we're sending arms to enough nations, really. I think somebody else ought to carry a little responsibility.

Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, there is common speculation in the political community that there may be a difference in approach toward public problems between you and Vice President Nixon in the sense that Nixon would be more a man of action, you more a man to wait until events developed to see whether action was required.

He has stated recently, for example, that there should be a month-by-month examination of our military posture and military--whether our security in the military field is greater now.

Would you, based on your experience with Mr. Nixon, would you be able to discuss or characterize any variations in approach that you might have, as distinguished from his approach?

THE PRESIDENT. All of us are human, and consequently, I don't believe there are any two men in the world, or two individuals, who would find exactly the same methods or use exactly the same procedures in trying to solve a difficult problem.

Mr. Nixon has been close to me now for something over 7 years. In all that time, I know of no occasion when he's been excluded from any important group that is conferring for the making of policy or deciding upon action, and never once that I know of has Mr. Nixon been at any major variance with me.

I think I've made clear many, many times the great respect I have for his capacities and for his character, and I would expect him to have some kind of different methods. He doesn't work with people the way I do; he has his own methods. I've had mine, developed probably over a good many years, and possibly I think they're pretty good.

But I certainly have no thought of trying to guide him as to what he will or should do.

One other comment to your question: far from waiting each month to weigh defense requirements and defense production, we have the National Security Council, in which nobody is barred from bringing up any fear or any matter, any preoccupation on his mind, any anxiety or conviction. Of course, we have to work by agenda, but everybody there is just as free to express his opinion as a man can be. So the matter of reviewing constantly our defensive requirements and measures we take to meet them is a thing that is a day-by-day process.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, in your mutual security message yesterday, you said that in March there would be a meeting of representatives of many nations to study the pooling of foreign aid. Could you tell us who will be at that meeting, what will be their objective?

THE PRESIDENT. Wall, I can't tell you exactly at this moment; because if the final charter for the meeting has been drawn up, why, I have not yet read it.

I have visited a number of governments and individuals, talking about this matter. I've found a very great concern about it, and everybody feeling that there is a common responsibility.

There's one thought which I very definitely put into my message that I believe we should talk about a little bit. It is this: we are not just a mere group of industrialized and, say, relatively wealthy nations seeking to give something or put something into another nation according to our ideas of what will help them. I personally believe the whole free world should be in a cooperative effort to raise the world economy. I believe that, in doing the kind of thing that we are now talking about, we will be raising our own prosperity, our own well-being, and our own security. So, I believe that the smallest country can contribute something. As long as it's got the will and the heart to do the major portion of the work itself which must be done, it can increase its output of raw materials, all of the things that it needs to get the foreign exchange which will enable it to purchase from others. In the same way, we get a better market, but we give them better markets all the time.

I really think this whole matter is not just of a group of, let's say, "have" nations meeting to see how they will distribute the load that falls on them. I think in the long run we must have a congress of all the free nations where we can work this out.

Q. Mr. Brandt: Does that mean you are going to use the U.N. more than you have done in the past?

THE PRESIDENT. To my mind, of course, the United Nations is something that should be strengthened. I think it's done good work in so many areas; but there are, of course, difficulties because of its particular composition. In any event, I want to get over the cooperation between the primary user and the giver so that we will have an expanding world economy, rather than just saying we are helping some particular group.

I really believe, again I must tell you, there is no program that the United States is pursuing now that is so much to. our own interests as this one of mutual security. I realize it's the whipping boy for everybody that wants to have another dam built or something else done in his area. It's got the political appeal of just an ordinary clod out in the field-none; so therefore it makes a good whipping boy.

But if the United States as a whole can be waked up to our best interests, this program will be supported generously.

Q. Sarah McClendon, Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader: Sir, our Air Force sent a safety crew to Newfoundland to board the plane of Mikoyan to see that he got safely to Cuba. Now, I realize, as the Air Force says, that this is done for reciprocity; but why would we have to send one of our Air Force crews into another country to board the plane of a Russian official to see that he gets into a third country, so that he can go down there and malign us? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Ma'am, I thought I kept rather closely in touch with all the affairs of this Government. There are certainly many, and I think I do in most of the important things. This is the first time I heard it. I commend you to Secretary Sharp; ask him what he thinks, why this is done. I don't know.

Q. David Kraslow, Knight Newspapers: Mr. President, will the administration's recommendations on the Sugar Act contain a provision designed specifically to deal with unfavorable developments in Cuba?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I say what we are doing now is studying the program with everybody that is interested, both outside and inside Government, and that program is not yet ready to go to the Congress.

Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: Mr. President, two of the many charges that your defense critics have made against you and your administration are that the administration has been complacent in advising the people of the danger we face in world affairs. The other is that economy may stand in the way of developing some weapon or a series of weapons we may need.

Sir, do you believe that the administration has misled the American people in any way, or that any money has been withheld from any weapon we might need?

THE PRESIDENT. If anybody--anybody--believes that I have deliberately misled the American people, I'd like to tell him to his face what I think about him. This is a charge that I think is despicable; I have never made it against anyone 'in the world, and I wouldn't unless he were in a bar of justice somewhere to be tried for something that was intolerable.

I would like to see somebody--people like yourselves--take the whole history of our defense organization from 1945 until this minute, and see what has been done. Frankly, this Nation unilaterally disarmed, and it wasn't until the danger or the great surprise attack in Korea came about that we starred in the other direction. In almost every field of development we were behind. We had to change our policy at that time, back in 1950, and from that time on, we sought one thing--adequacy; adequacy in our power to deter and defend ourselves, and particularly to help these areas which are so exposed to the menace of Communist imperialism so that they may give a reasonable defense of themselves and their lives and their rights, while their allies could come to their assistance. This is what I believe we've been trying to do with all our might.

I get tired of saying that defense is to be made an excuse for wasting dollars. I don't believe we should pay one cent for defense more than we have to.

But I do say this: our defense is not only strong, it is awesome, and it is respected elsewhere.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and eighty-first news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:29 to 11:02 o'clock on Wednesday morning, February 17, 1960. In attendance: 205.

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/234694

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