Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

September 07, 1960

THE PRESIDENT. Good morning. Please sit down.

In a very depressing world picture that we see so often, there is one bright spot that seems to me worthy of mention, and that is the settling of the Indus River water problem between Pakistan and India. I think the world--at least, certainly, the free world--should offer a vote of thanks to the people that have been so instrumental: not only President Ayub and Prime Minister Nehru, but Eugene Black of the World Bank and his deputy, Mr. Iliff. This has been brought about by long, patient negotiations with concessions on both sides, and among the governments that of course necessarily had to assist in financing over and beyond what the World Bank could do, and the countries themselves. In both cases I know that this--particularly between the two governmental heads--this negotiation has gone on for a long time. When I was in these two countries we talked about the matter, and their expressed intention there to settle it has finally come to a fruition for which all of us should be very grateful and gratified.

Q. Rutherford M. Poats, United Press International: Sir, in that connection can you suggest to us the breadth of the political possibilities in this step toward a rapprochement between India and Pakistan? Do you see this as a step toward, say, tackling the problem of Kashmir?

THE PRESIDENT. In this sense, yes: that with both these countries water is a tremendous matter--problem, and the agreement here cannot fail to lead, in my opinion, to the settlement of other problems about their refugees and displaced persons, and even it might have some effect on this very touchy question of Kashmir. Certainly that is the hope.

Q. Kenneth M. Scheibel, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, Vice President Nixon has said that he will not make religion an issue in this campaign. Now, the other day a prominent American said that the Republican Party is bringing religion into the campaign as an issue through the back door. Do you have any comment?

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Nixon and I agreed long ago that one thing that we would never raise, and never mention, is the religious issue in this coming campaign. I have made my position clear before this group, and I suppose I do not need to repeat it.

I not only don't believe in voicing prejudice, I want to assure you I feel none. And I am sure that Mr. Nixon feels exactly the same.

Now, the very need for--apparently for--protesting innocence in this regard now, in itself, seems to exacerbate the situation rather than to quiet it. I know of no one, certainly no Republican has come to me and said, "I believe we should use religion as an issue," or intimate that he intends to use it either locally or nationally. I do not believe that any group of leaders has been more emphatic upon this point than have the Republican leaders. And, I would hope that it could be one of those subjects that could be laid on the shelf and forgotten until after the election is over.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, how do you evaluate reports from the Congo that Russian planes are being used to transport troops outside U.N. jurisdiction?

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Scherer, that's one question I knew I was going to get--[laughter]--and so, I have written an answer because I want to make perfectly clear what we feel about it.

[Reading] The United States deplores the unilateral action of the Soviet Union in supplying aircraft and other equipment for military purposes to the Congo, thereby aggravating an already serious situation which finds Africans killing other Africans. If these planes are flown by Soviet military personnel this would be contrary to the principles so far applied regarding use in the Congo of military contingents from the larger powers.

As far as I know, these rules have previously been upheld by the Soviet Union itself. Therefore, it would be doubly serious if such participation by military units were part of an operation in the civil war which has recently taken on very ugly overtones.

The main responsibility in the case of the Congo has been thrown on the United Nations as the only organization able to act without adding to the risks of spreading the conflict. The United Nations maintains very strict principles regarding foreign military intervention in the Congo or in any country. I am sure that within the limits set by the Charter itself, the United Nations is doing what it can to uphold these principles and will do so in the future.

The constitutional structure of the Congo Republic is a question which should be worked out peacefully by the Congolese themselves.

This objective is threatened by the Soviet action which seems to be motivated entirely by the Soviet Union's political designs in Africa. I must repeat that the United States takes a most serious view of this action by the Soviet Union. In the interest of a peaceful solution in Africa, acceptable to all parties concerned, I urge the Soviet Union to desist from its unilateral activities and to demand its support--to lend its support instead to the practice of collective effort through the United Nations. [Ends reading]

And I might add that the United States intends to give its support to the United Nations to whatever they find it necessary within the limits of the Charter to keep peace in this region.

Q. William McGaffin, Chicago Daily News: Sir, continuing this discussion upon a very grave question, do you--could you give us the benefit of your thinking as far as you can within security reasons, on our chances of keeping the lid on the Congo, of keeping it from succumbing to communism, and of avoiding another war, Korean-type war there?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know that you could describe the type of war. I think this: this job can be done if others see the problem in the same serious way that the United States, and I think the United Nations, does see it. But if they, someone, or if the Soviets insist on acting unilaterally, I can say this would create a situation that would indeed be serious.

Q. Thomas N. Schroth, Congressional Quarterly: Sir, it's often been said that you preferred to stand above politics. I wonder if you would give us your views on the role of the Presidency in political campaigns, and would you tell us whether you personally enjoy political activities?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, first of all, I of course am not responsible for the opinions of others saying I like to stay above politics. I've never said so. I recognize that I have, or have had, the responsibility to be the head of a party, a party that upholds the basic philosophy that I believe to be correct for application in this Nation to keep our economy strong and expanding.

Now, believing that, and having been responsible for directing the operations of the executive department for the past 7½ years, it would be odd if I simply became a sphinx and refused to show why I believe these things and what were my hopes for it in the future. Now, I do think this: I think that the President, as long as he is President, still has an obligation to every single individual in this Nation. Therefore, the rule of reason and of logic and of good sense has got to apply in these things if a man in such position, concerned with the dignity of the office, concerned with its standing, he cannot just go out and be in the hustings and shouting some of the things that we see stated often irresponsibly. I believe he does have a right to make his views known to Americans wherever they are.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Sir, Senator Kennedy said yesterday that you cannot get Mr. Khrushchev to bargain seriously about peace either by arguing with him or smiling with him. Now, you've tried "summitry" and you tried inviting him here. Do you think it would have been better if you had taken a tougher road, and would you so advise Vice President Nixon?

THE PRESIDENT. What do you mean by "tougher road"?

Q. Mrs. Craig: Not stop nuclear testing, perhaps not had him here.

THE PRESIDENT. I don't see anything that would be tough about refusing to see a man as long as there was any possible chance of his agreeing to one of the main efforts we are making toward disarmament. I do not see that it is merely in, as part of the contest between, in perfecting weapons that we want to stop testing. We are talking about everything we can do to bring some peace to the world; that's what we are trying to do. Now, toughness comes in standing in front of the man and telling him what you will do and you won't do. Our country is peaceable; we want peace. Is it tough just to say we won't even talk peace? That makes--that seems to me to be silly. Now, I don't care who says it, you have got to explore every avenue there is, and you've got to work on it day and night and think about it day and night. And I am not concerned about any criticism about my past actions. I have worked for what I thought was the good of the United States and the peace of the world, and I will continue to do so.

Q. William H. Y. Knighton, Jr., Baltimore Sun: Mr. President, on a less serious subject, it appears as though now the world series will be played possibly only 40 miles from here. [Laughter] Would you consider attending one of the games, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, Sir.

Q. Mr. Knighton: Thank you.

Q. Robert C. Pierpoint, CBS News: Mr. President, on a more serious subject again--[laughter]--you have indicated that you are considering going to the United Nations General Assembly and I am wondering if you have made your decision to go, if you could tell us about that decision; and, secondly, will you possibly see Mr. Khrushchev when he's here?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would think the chances of the latter were very, very slim indeed. And there would have to, again, to be some conditions fulfilled because--before that could happen.

I think we must start off with this premise: we must respect the United Nations; we must believe in the United Nations or the case for relieving some of the burdens that mankind is now carrying, for removing some of the worries and the fears that plague men's minds and hearts, will never be achieved. Therefore, I do not intend to debase the United Nations by being a party to a, well, a battle of invective and propaganda.

Now, I have been thinking even more this year than formerly of the possibility of making a pilgrimage to the United Nations. I have done it twice. But every year it comes up. This year there would appear to be very definite reasons for going there, but at the same time I must insist I am not going there in any attempt to, you might say, to debase that organization in the minds of people everywhere. 1

1 on September 14 the Press Secretary announced that the President would go to New York on the morning of September 22 for the purpose of addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations. It was further stated that the President would make specific proposals to the United Nations delegates at that time.

Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, would you please give us your reaction to the recognition of Communist China by the Castro regime in Cuba?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it seems that it's what you might have expected. I think it is a very grave error.

Q. David Kraslow, Knight Newspapers: Mr. President, there has been quite a bit of soul searching of late about our national purpose. How would you define our national purpose, and do you think the American people are losing sight of it?

THE PRESIDENT. You know, I think there's a lot of talk about this. The United States purpose was stated in its Declaration of Independence and very definitely in the first ten amendments to the Constitution, and as well as the preamble to that document.

I am not concerned about America losing its sense of purpose. We may not be articulate about it, and we may not give daily the kind of thought to it that we should; but I believe America wants to live first in freedom and the kind of liberty that is guaranteed to us through our founding documents; and, secondly, they want to live at peace with all their neighbors, so that we may jointly find a better life for humanity as we go forward.

This, to me, is the simple purpose of the United States.

We have to take many avenues and routes to achieve it. We have to keep tremendous defensive arrangements. We must help others in different fashions, but that is always the purpose, and I see no reason for blinking it or dimming it or being afraid to speak it.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, how do you feel about these NSA defectors, and do you think there is anything that should be done to try to prevent the hiring of this type by our top security agencies?

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Arrowsmith, I don't know of anything that has-any internal or procedural problem--that has more engaged my attention for these past years. And this is only natural, I think.

I was a commander of an enormous force, an allied force, in which the dangers of leaks and defectors and spies in our midst were always very great and I have possibly been more sensitive to the dangers to our country as created by this kind of weakness, human weakness, than have most people.

Now, I believe that an incident such as this shows that we must be always on the alert, very alert. I would think we must go through our entire procedures to see if there is any one way we could better it. We have every kind of organization--every kind of group--that is possible to be party to these investigations into the backgrounds and character of the people in sensitive positions. I believe we must continue to do so. And, for my part, whenever it's a choice of the Nation's safety in keeping an individual, I will do something to get him out of a place--where he cannot hurt us.

I recognize that even in Government--although Government employment is a privilege and not a right--that the rights of the individual must be respected, but this incident, I believe, should be a lesson to all of us that we must never cease our vigilance in the large and small places at any time.

Q. M. Stewart Hensley, United Press International: Mr. President, you have spoken of the Russian, use of Russian planes to transport Lumumba's troops within the Congo. Do you have any evidence that the Russians, in addition to this, are supplying any arms to Lumumba's forces?

THE PRESIDENT. I have no--and, as a matter of fact, two things: we do not know as of now that there are any Russian [military] crews operating these planes, and we do not know that there are any weapons in the cargoes.

Now, there were 10 planes that, on the request of the Russians, landed in Athens on the condition that they were inspected for the character of their cargo and it was all of a legitimate type for peaceful uses. But I believe, understand that there have been no more requests made to land at Athens. [Confers with Mr. Hagerty]

Well, Russian military crews, I'll correct that.

Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, in answer to an earlier question you said you thought the chances were very, very slim of your meeting with Premier Khrushchev until some conditions were fulfilled beforehand. Could you spell that out a bit; by "conditions" would you have in mind something like freeing the RB-47 fliers which they are now holding in jail?

THE PRESIDENT. That would be one thing that I would expect, yes. But I don't believe I will go into the entire gamut of the possibilities. I think I will let your imagination answer that one.

Q. Edward V. Koterba, United features: Mr. President, again in a lighter vein, on next October 4th, just 10 days before your 70th birthday, you will have passed the age record of Andrew Jackson who became the oldest Chief Executive in history, as he left office at the age of 69 years, 11 months, and 19 days. As this milestone in presidential history approaches, sir, could you give us a few hints on how you've succeeded in maintaining such apparent good health despite the tremendous burdens of your office?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, first of all, I believe it's a tradition in baseball that when a pitcher has a no-hitter going, no one reminds him of it. [Laughter] So, I don't take it very kindly that you are taking for granted that I am going to reach October 4th.

As a matter of fact, I see no particular virtue or not that a man should be the eldest President ever to serve. I do think about age in the terms of two men that were going down the road, and one of them was very woeful about the fact that he was getting into so many advanced years. And he complained about this and all of the joys of youth and middle age that he was now missing, and finally the other one could stand it no longer and he says, "Well, I'm certainly glad I'm old." And the fellow said, "Well, what's the matter; are you crazy? .... Well," he says, "considering when I was born, if I weren't old, I'd be dead." [Laughter]

Now, I, the way I feel of it, concerning, considering the day I was born, why, I'm glad I'm old!

Q. Frank van der Linden, Nashville Banner: Sir, the Congress has gone home without acting on nearly all of the requests you made for legislation. And Senator Kennedy and the other Democratic leaders are saying it's mostly your fault, or the Republicans' fault. And I wondered if you have other reasons than that.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, apparently this other--this other party then is making me responsible for splitting theirs. I think that should be something for self-examination and not for calling for comment from me.

Next, they had a 2-to-1 majority. They were in session for a long time, and they did very little indeed.

I think the record was disappointing and certainly it was disappointing to me, but that isn't important. I think that it should be disappointing to the United States.

Within any little bit of give-and-take which, after all, is necessary in the legislative process, we could certainly have had a reasonable raise in the minimum wage. The administration had asked for it. We could have had some schoolrooms constructed, and which would have been the kind of thing that I think the federal Government could well help out. And we could have had other things like that done with a little bit of give-and-take.

Now, I am not going to start castigating people for motives or anything else. I am merely relating the facts which I think are such as to cause some disappointment, if not dismay, throughout the American Nation.

Q. Mikhail R. Sagatelyan, Tass Telegraph Agency: Sir, at several recent news conferences you repeated, repeatedly stated, that the United States and you personally are ready to do everything which may appear necessary for strengthening peace with justice, and mainly for progress in the field of world disarmament. Would you, sir, tell us what new steps for obtaining the above-mentioned aims the United States and you personally are going to make during the coming session of the General Assembly in which a certain number of heads of governments will participate?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know whether you can say that there is anything new. There will be renewed effort made, there will be renewed effort to place the whole record of America in this field before the world again, to show where are the areas where we want to negotiate, concessions we are ready to make, the kind of agreements we are ready to make, provided only that every agreement has with it the kind of control and inspection that can make each side confident that both are acting in good faith. That is the sole reservation we make in these negotiations, and I think it will be, of course, reemphasized.

Now, as far as any new proposal, I believe there have been one or two made in the United Nations again about a good many tons of U-235, and so on, ready to--[confers with Mr. Hagerty]--I think made by-Mr. Lodge made this before the United Nations just in a matter of a month. We will continue to stand by such offers as that. But in every place we will review the whole situation and say, "Here is what we stand ready to do."

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, in appraising the short session of Congress, how much responsibility do you think the Southern Democrats and conservative Republicans, the coalition, must bear for not getting through the domestic, social welfare legislation you spoke of?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it turns out, Mr. Spivack, that this contest now in which everybody is so interested, and in the context of which all of this record of the Confess is viewed, is between Democrats and Republicans. So, there is where I would leave the Congress.

Q. Charles W. Roberts, Newsweek: Sir, in the statements made by the two NSA defectors in Moscow, they indicated that they had made known their unhappiness here, made to a Member of Congress, and there was an indication that the State Department was informed that they were unhappy and contemplating defection. I wonder if any reports coming to you show that there was evidence anywhere in the Government that these men were under surveillance or were suspected of defecting prior to the time they left?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I haven't--this is a new statement in the thing, so far as I am concerned. And, I would say this: the Defense Department has already made quite a statement in--and one of these men, I believe, is--he was investigated by the, originally, by the Navy, the other by the Army, and I think those two services could give you more detailed information on this matter than I can. I know nothing about this, as a specific charge.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and ninety-first news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:30 to 11:01 o'clock on Wednesday morning, September 7, 1960. In attendance: 243.

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/235305

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