Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

February 04, 1959

THE PRESIDENT. Please sit down.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I got you out a little earlier this morning because, as you know, I am trying to go down to Georgia for the rest of the week.

I would like to talk for a few moments about two bills in the Congress, one the housing bill and one the airport bill.

The housing bill provides a much more expensive program than the budget does. For example, it has a very much expanded assistance to colleges--where we had about $200 million--of $575 million I believe it is, that kind of thing. There is additional money in some of the bills for direct loans for veterans. I recommended competitive rates of interest, which would make it unnecessary for the Federal Government to continue in the business of direct lending.

But, in any event, the effect of this bill in the Senate I think will be in the next several years about $1,300,000,000 more than I would recommend. Now, this means that in the very first bill the budget is to be unbalanced.

Many leaders of Congress in the past have talked to me--and I mean congressional leaders from both parties--about the need for keeping expenditures within our income, avoiding the cheapening of our money. I believe in that, and I am going to do every possible thing I can to keep expenditures within that level.

Now I wonder why, if we are going to ask for these new expenditures, and everybody admitting that deficit spending is certainly not a good thing, why doesn't each one of these bills include a measure for increasing taxes? That would be the straightforward, honest way to see whether the United States really wants this kind of thing.

I don't believe that we should have higher taxes, and I do not believe that the United States wants higher taxes. That means to me living within your income by avoiding unnecessary expenditures.

I stand on this, and you are going to hear me saying this often during the coming session. You will probably get weary of it, but it is honest and I think all of us should try to reason, with our own minds, what it means if we just go into this reckless spending.

Now, in the airport bill, the airport bill of the administration directs itself to one factor and one factor only: improving the safety of flying, whether it is in the air, takeoff, or when you are arriving. It does not interest itself in building a nice, lovely administration building and things that we would call, for the railroads, depots. The Federal Government did not build the terminals for either the railways or for the buses. I see no reason for doing it for the air terminals.

But this matter of safety is very, very important, emphasized again in the very sad accident this morning. 1

1The President referred to an airplane crash near LaGuardia Airport, New York.

Now, General Quesada informs me that there is no evidence that any failure of the airways safety system had anything to do with this particular accident, but this is sure: no money put into the building of the terminal, the administrative buildings, and other conveniences, could have avoided or helped to avoid that kind of accident.

I think we should put our money in that, and not into these things which are unnecessary, no matter how desirable they may seem to be to the locality. The locality ought to pay for those things, and the Government is certainly going to do its part to keep flying safe.

Remember, there are 35,000 individuals right now operating on this thing. I can give you all sorts of statistics. We have helped in the past. We have put money in 40 airports at which last year there was an average of less than I o planes stationed.

There are all sorts of places where this money is not needed, but it is needed for improving flying safety, and that is what I believe we should do.

And, above all, let us remember--since we are doing necessary things-again we have the effect on budget. Why should we cheapen dollars, and in the airplane business having higher flying rates, and making everything more expensive, more expensive for the housewife and for you and for me and for everybody else? I am against it. Now I have had my say.

Q. Dayton Moore, United Press International: Mr. President, do you consider Virginia's orderly start on integration of public schools to be a good model for other Southern States?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would put it in this way: I certainly feel that all of us should compliment the State officials who determined that there was going to be no evidence and no occurrence of violence in this kind of thing. I am certainly very proud of the parents, the way they performed their duties, and the children themselves.

There was one incident--I think it was reported in the papers yesterday or this morning--of this group of honor students in Norfolk themselves paying for advertisements in the local newspapers, to say that they wanted their schools opened and they wanted it done in an orderly fashion. This to my mind is the most important thing of all, because I believe we are beginning to understand that we must have some consideration for our fellow man if democracy is going to work. I think the evidence that a little education and a little effort to understand are growing is heartening indeed. But I repeat that I think all the officials and everybody else that was concerned should be complimented.

Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, Soviet border guards have stopped an American Army truck convoy, and they have demanded the right to inspect it before they allow it to proceed. Could you tell us whether we have any intention of allowing the Soviet border guards to inspect such cargoes, and could you comment on this situation, generally?

THE PRESIDENT. The position we have always held is that the responsibility voluntarily undertaken by the four occupying powers of maintaining their forces in Berlin was one that did necessarily give the right of supporting those forces.

Now we felt that since we had to perform that responsibility, we had the right to bring in the kind of supplies and remove the same kind of supplies from that particular spot, Berlin. Therefore, we have never acknowledged any right of inspection on the part of another of the participating powers with respect to our cargoes and the kind of equipment and supplies we are carrying forward.

Now we feel, in other words, this is a violation of the agreements, implied if not always explicitly stated; because, naturally, the people that made these could not foresee every kind of little difficulty that could occur. So we believe it is a violation of the implied agreement, arrangement between the four. While up to this moment the protests have been only at the local level by the military, we have this morning lodged a vigorous protest with the Foreign Office in Moscow. Whether or not that message has yet been delivered, I do not know; but I do know we have sent it.

Q. Rowland Evans, Jr., New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, in view of the transition in Virginia, I wondered whether you thought that strong civil rights legislation touching on education and integration in the schools could be more harmful than beneficial, whether you would discuss that for a moment.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I do not know what is strong legislation and what is not strong. I do believe that legislation that is certain to exacerbate the whole situation, that is going to raise tempers and increase prejudices, could be far more harmful than good.

Now, I do believe there are certain aspects in which the laws show vacant spots; and certainly I, for one, will never propose anything of this kind where I do not believe that the American public would see it as moderate and decent and with the purpose of improving, not worsening, the situation. I believe if you try to do things that would give people the right, or at least even the possibility, of saying the Federal Government is trying to set up a great Federal police and give it the responsibility of seeing whether each citizen is doing his duty, is avoiding a violation of the law--that would be a wicked thing, and we are not trying to do anything like that.

Q. Sarah McClendon, Camden Courier-Post: Mr. President, Sarah McClendon of the Camden Courier-Post. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. May I ask you, is that a new one?

Q. Mrs. McClendon: Well, somewhat.

Sir, in South Jersey there are hundreds of thousands of acres of land that could be had for a decent, adequate airport jet terminal to serve big cities, Washington and New York, by quick monorail facilities, and the officials in those counties have this plan well worked out.

Now, would you not say, on the contrary, that this New York airport terminal might have had something to do with that airplane crash, by reason of location, and maybe if there were more Federal funds for locating airports away from big cities, it might be safer.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you are getting into a very involved question. New York located that port, and I believe there was another one built out at Idlewild to take planes that were considered to be a little bit more difficult to handle.

Now, the particular kind of idea that you now describe, well, I have never heard it talked in governmental circles; I've never spoken to General Quesada, who I think is the authority in this field.

Still, I do believe it is, informally, something that people are talking quite a bit about--to get these long flights coming into areas where the maximum safety will be achieved, and then from there, either by helicopter or any other kind of a method, why, the distribution will be made.

But safety itself as we are studying it is devoted to the fields that do exist and are used, and this other is a much greater problem than what we have yet talked about.

Q. Rod MacLeish, Westinghouse Broadcasting Company: Sir, could you give us your assessment of Mr. Khrushchev's 6-hour oration before the Communist Party Congress in Moscow, especially his contention that competition should be on the economic level above everything else between our two countries?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, naturally we have had a number of briefings, but I think it would be really futile at such a meeting as this to try to go through the whole thing and try to get behind what you believe he is trying to do. After all, these speeches, these long speeches, are designed for domestic as well as foreign consumption.

I would merely say this: there is nothing that I can see in them that offers another avenue of hope for the free world. We have to design for ourselves such kinds of, you might say, plans or little programs that might possibly be acceptable and, therefore, would do something to crack this Iron Curtain complex that seems to plague us now.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, another head of the ICA, International Cooperation Administration, has resigned. You have had about four in there. Is there any way that you could keep your dedicated people in that organization?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I tell you, Mr. Brandt, that's one that after awhile everybody gets quite worn down, for this simple reason: every one of them believes in it as a matter of American policy and believes it is absolutely necessary to the safety of the free world. But they have a very hostile type of atmosphere in which to do their testifying and to get the appropriations that they believe--I say "very hostile"; there is a growing hostility. We have, as I recall, about halved the amounts that were put in this field, let's say 6 years ago. It is a very, very wearisome job that they have, and I can't blame them much; although I must say I hate to lose Mr. Smith, and I don't know who I am going to get yet to take his place.

Q. Garnett D. Horner, Washington Star: Mr. President, the Soviet Defense Minister bragged yesterday that they now have intercontinental missiles with hydrogen warheads that can hit any point in the world precisely and accurately, that make our nuclear weapons outdated. Could you comment on that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. They also said that they invented the flying machine--[laughter]--and the automobile and the telephone and other things. Now I am not trying to be too facetious; I am trying to ask this one question of you people, though: why should you be so respectful of this statement this morning, if you are not so respectful of the other three?

I think there is always a design behind every Soviet pronouncement. Now I think you people probably know it already, but last night or this morning there was an Atlas firing that was absolutely successful; it was long range, and we think it was a very good performance.

I don't know what the words "pinpoint accuracy" mean. They sound to me like rather propaganda words.

Now I am not going to decry their accomplishments. But I am not going to get involved or worried about trying to take everything they could do in every field and placing an equation there and finding that it comes to equality.

We have got a very much more variegated, a more, we believe, balanced type of defensive organization than have they; and we believe that with the dispersion that we have and with the competence of our planes and supported as they are by the missiles that we have developed, that we have a very splendid posture today in the whole security field. And I would not be at all surprised that more statements of this kind will be made. Apparently, they are believed all around the world, and too implicitly.

Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publication: Mr. President, on the point that you were just speaking about, a great deal of controversy seems to center on the idea that the Russians have achieved some capability of knocking out our retaliatory capacity before we could actually use it.


Q. Mr. Wilson: Could you throw any light on that general subject? Does it have any substance, does that idea have any substance at all?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, we don't believe it has. Quite naturally, if they are going to attack by surprise, there are going to be some losses suffered by American forces, and possibly by America itself in some other ways. That is just implicit in the opportunity that a dictator has to start a war himself.

Now, that is the reason that we have to be so alert. But as I have told you before, we are constantly improving our warning equipment.

We have dispersed through the building of new airfields, we have dispersed our strategic air force much more widely than it was a few years back. We have made alert arrangements until a very good portion of this whole force could be in the air in a matter of minutes; and on top of that, we have our own kinds of weapons that would be useful.

Now, if we were going to assume that our entire forces were going to be wiped out instantly so we would be helpless, then we must be figuring that these people--taking some factor of effectiveness and for near misses, let us say 70 percent or anything you want to, how many of these missiles are they going to send off in one volley all over this world to immobilize us? There finally comes such a thing as just a logical limit to capability, and we know that there is not that kind of capability existing in the world today.

And I will say this: our own capability is to make certain not only that our retaliatory power is strong, but gets more and more secure through our planning and development, more secure all the time; so that we do not believe that there is a relative increase in their capacity.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, may we explore another aspect of the housing problem. Your Civil Rights Commission has found evidences of discrimination and segregation in housing, not in the South this time, but in New York City.

Father Hesburgh of Notre Dame, who was at the hearings, calls it a national problem.

What do you feel is the Federal role in this national problem, and do you think perhaps that the proviso to withhold Government funds from housing projects that permit discrimination is of the same order of importance as holding down unnecessary spending in these problems?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it seems to me always there is the effort to solve two problems at one time, in one major effort. Now, you want to solve the civil rights problem by housing, so therefore you have another facet of this problem attacked from a different way.

I think housing is important, and we continue to try to help with urban development. But we do believe that the Federal Government's share of urban development has been badly distorted in favor of the locality. It is the locality that is, after all, to be improved and made better, and we believe that something of the order of 35 percent should be the Federal portion, ratio, instead of 65.

Now, I do not know exactly--at this moment I certainly would not give a shotgun opinion--what I would say of giving such restrictions as you suggest in this urban development with respect to race. I personally believe these problems should not be put together and then try to solve them.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. President, Marshal Malinovsky also said that the United States should ponder the vulnerability of its shores.


Q. Mrs. Craig: Should ponder the vulnerability of its shores, its coasts.


Q. Mrs. Craig: President Frondizi has told reporters that the Argentine Navy has depth-bombed submarines which refused to identify themselves off the Argentine shore. Will you tell us what you know of the activity of Russian submarines off our coasts and how vulnerable we are?

THE PRESIDENT. Well now, I will not tell you, for this sample reason: most of the information that I have in this field is of course through briefings, and I cannot tell you at this moment whether such as I have is in the restricted or confidential area or not.

You can go to the Secretary of Defense and ask him exactly the same question, and if he knows anything about it and knows whether he can give it, he will talk to you.

But I just feel that it is not wise for me, because my memory is simply not that good that I can tell you whether it is in the public domain or whether it is in the restricted field.

Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: Mr. President, do your introductory remarks about the housing and airport bills mean that in their present form they would be vetoed?

And, secondly, would you plan between now and final passage any effort by yourself to get together with the Democratic leaders to see if you could work out an agreed program?

THE PRESIDENT. I have consistently stuck to one policy: I never promise to veto or to approve. After all, that is something I cannot decide until the bill comes before me, until all of us, the administration and its officials, have had the chance to study the whole thing as it comes finally from the Congress.

Now in every possible way, everybody I meet from Congress, I talk to them about this problem; and I have seen no one yet that does not recognize the seriousness of the problem. It is a matter of judgment in two things, as I see it.

Some people say your aggregate is all right, but you distribute it badly and, therefore, "We will change it." Other people say, "Well, it would be very, very nice to have a balanced budget and therefore a sound dollar, but we would think it is more important to do some things we would like to do."

Now I am going to do everything I can to persuade people that I am talking sense in this matter and, if I am talking sense, this means that there has simply got to be some proximity, you might say, of target for all of us.

I am not going to say that I am going to veto this or that, based on a very minimum sum or a slight difference in policy. I am just simply saying this is so important I am never going to stop striving for it. Q. Mr. Lawrence: May I ask one follow-up question, sir.

On the record, at least, sir, most of the people you see from Congress are Republicans, who numerically have very little influence.

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, yes, yes.

Q. Mr. Lawrence: I was wondering whether you plan a more aggressive effort to get together with the Democrats to have their leaders down on this sort of problem.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'll tell you. After all, there are, as you know, certain problems that we always get to them either through the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, or myself. [Confers with Mr. Hagerty]

As a matter of fact, I see them possibly more frequently than appears in the public press.

Q. Peter Lisagot, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, you said that you did not think the American people wanted higher taxes. You also said that you thought localities ought to do some of the things, such as the airport. Governor Rockefeller of New York has found it necessary to move to get more taxes for what he regards as desirable programs. Do you think the American people would be willing to accept tax increases from the State, rather than from the Federal Government? Do you think this is a better approach?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I do not know, because I don't know the rate of that taxation for these several States. This is what I was talking about: the Federal rate of taxation and what I see as the American reluctance to accept higher rates, unless they can see that there is a clear emergency demanding now current action for which they can be persuaded to make the sacrifice. And I believe they will, if you have got an emergency thing. But now, let's remember we are planning for 20 years, 30 years, 40 years. We have got to live with this thing.

As we know, as the population grows we get more revenues; but we also get, in some of these things, very much higher costs. When we remember that our taxes run from--we have got a $600 exemption now, and we run up to 92 percent, I believe it is, in the very top ones--I think that income taxes, which are the things that the Federal Government mainly lives on, are getting about as high as you can keep them on the indefinite basis.

Now, I believe you can, for emergency, tough problems, I think you can do more than that.

Sterling F. Green, Associated Press: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and forty-ninth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 9:58 to 10:29 o'clock on Wednesday morning, February 4, 1959. In attendance: 214.

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/234497

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