Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

November 04, 1959

THE PRESIDENT. In order to confirm some of the things that you have been reading in the papers, I want to give you an announcement, which may be of some interest.

I am planning to leave Washington on December 4th on a 2 1/2 weeks' trip which will take me to nine countries.

In response to friendly invitations from the heads of state concerned, I plan to make brief informal visits to Rome, where I hope also to call on His Holiness the Pope, to Ankara, Karachi, Kabul, and to be in New Delhi for the inauguration of the American Exhibit. at the World Agricultural Fair which opens on December 11th.

From India, I plan to visit Tehran and Athens en route to Paris to the Western summit meeting scheduled for December 19th. On my way home from Pads, I shall stop briefly in Rabat.

When the detailed schedule of this trip is fixed in consultation with the several governments concerned, I shall, of course, make it known to you.

There are three critical dates. December 3d, I think, or 4th is the very earliest date I could possibly go because there is all of the great work of developing the legislative program and the budget for the coming year.

December 11 is critical because that is the day when the Agricultural Fair will open.

December 19 is a critical one because that is the day I am to be in Paris. So this doesn't leave a great deal of time for dallying along the way.

That is all I have to say. 1

1 On November 5 the White House released a statement concerning the composition of the party to accompany the President on his trip. Noting that Secretary Herter would be unable to go because of duties connected with the NATO Ministerial Council Meeting in Paris on December 15, the statement announced that the ranking State Department representative would be Robert Murphy, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. Other members of the party would include White House administrative Staff assistants and confidential secretaries.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press International: I wonder, sir, if you could tell us generally your purpose for making such an extensive trip, what you hope to accomplish by it?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, first of all no President has ever visited Asia. I don't think it is necessary for me to go into the reasons why Asia is important, not only in view of American interest but as a great portion of the world's population and area. So I should like very much to visit the area, and I think I have expressed before this, to you people, my ambition to visit India, a nation of 400 million people that is struggling so hard to raise its own standards of living and to realize some of its own ambitions, human ambitions in that line.

Visiting India, I would feel it missing a chance if I didn't visit briefly at least some of our friends right in the area--Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and of course on that route that I am following there are nations that are great friends of ours.

Frankly, I am hoping to build in that region of Asia and I hope in many other parts, a better understanding of the United States and good will for us.

I think this would be a great thing for us if there can be any success achieved in such a trip.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, NBC News: Could you say at this point, sir, whether most of the trip will be in one of the jet planes or would you perhaps take one of the prop planes, or would there perhaps be some sea travel involved?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that it will be largely in jet planes, that is what my schedule is concerned with.

Q. William McGaffin, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, many persons contend that secrecy in Government has grown during your administration. They say this is because the doctrine of Executive privilege has been broadened and abused by some members of the executive branch since your May 1954 directive on this subject.

Sir, if you could be convinced of this, would you take steps to correct the situation?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you say if I could be convinced of it. Frankly, I don't believe it. Now I want to make that very sure. Now I have tried--

Q. Mr. McGaffin: Well, why have--

THE PRESIDENT. I will try to answer your question that you have given.

Q. Mr. McGaffin: Pardon me.

THE PRESIDENT. I have done my very best to make certain that every department and agency of the United States Government makes available all information that is not obviously detrimental to the national interest if disclosed at that time.

Sometimes it is a matter of timing, but I see no reason for secrecy if it does not damage the United States, and I have tried to follow that policy. It is exactly what I meant when, somewhere about 1954, I put out a directive that gave the criteria by which these things should be measured.

This is a big Government, I have no doubt that errors are made. But that is at least my purpose, and I would think that if there are any more questions in detail, I believe the place to go would be the Attorney General.

Q. Garnett D. Homer, Washington Star: This would seem to be a very strenuous trip you are undertaking, and I wonder if you are likely planning some stop on the trip for some rest, or perhaps before that, of going somewhere for some rest, if you could get it.

THE PRESIDENT. I hope to go a few days sometime during November. I don't know when, but I shall not go so far away that I will not be in complete communication with the Government and all parts of it all the time.

Of course, it is customary that we do keep that kind of communication, I mean even where visits can be made; in other words, I do not believe I could go any further than Augusta, even if I got a few days, because there will be a lot of work to be done.

Q. Robert C. Pierpoint, CBS News: Could you tell us if you are planning to take Mrs. Eisenhower with you on this trip, or perhaps other members of your family?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I hope to take some members of my family, but I don't think Mrs. Eisenhower will go. It is a little bit tough, I think, for her on that kind of a mission. 1

1The President was accompanied by Major and Mrs. John S. D. Eisenhower.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: In light of your doctor's advice that you seek out a warm, dry climate whenever you can, I wonder if I could go back to Mr. Horner's question here. Is there any place that you might be able to sit down for awhile on this trip abroad to get some of that climate?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would think most of the visit would be in the cooler countries. The only places I think it would be warm probably would be Karachi and New Delhi, and New Delhi, of course, I believe is some 4,000 feet and you might get a little bit of it there. Somewhere along the line, of course, I will have to take a break, but that will all be spelled out when I can give you the details of the plan.

Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Would you care to give us your reaction to the House committee testimony dealing with fixed TV quiz shows?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't mind, of course. I think I share the American general reaction of almost bewilderment that people could conspire to confuse and deceive the American people.

As quickly as I heard about it, I of course asked the Justice Department to get busy to see whether there were any laws violated and what we can do or whether we should propose any new laws.

The Justice Department tells me that they will be ready to present their conclusions before the first of the year. The Federal Trade Commission has moved into it because, tied to this matter seems to be that of well, deceitful advertising; and they seem to have possibly some function in correcting this whole business.

I just think this: here is something that has grown up, everybody was astonished and almost dismayed when they heard about it, and I think everybody from the basic industry itself right on down to producers, performers, and actors and the public itself nobody will be satisfied until this whole mess is cleaned up.

Q. David Kraslow, Knight Newspapers: Mr. President, the note delivered to the Cuban Government last week contained a general discussion on the menace of communism. Can you tell us, sir, why this was included in the note?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think it is a very obvious subject to bring up whenever there is a troubled area where the Communism might take hold.

We know that the Communists like to fish in troubled waters, and there are certainly troubled waters there.

Now I think the statement speaks for itself, but I would have personally thought it would have been rather missing an opportunity to say something about this matter if it had been completely avoided--I mean an opportunity to call attention to the seriousness of the Communist menace.

Q. Edwin A. Lahey, Knight Newspapers: Mr. President, do you have any plans for a special session of Congress in case you lose that injunction in the Supreme Court?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't believe I'd better answer any iffy questions on this. This is very emotional, it is very serious, and I think we will just have to wait and see what the answer is.

Q. Carleton Kent, Chicago Sun-Times: Mr. President, have you reached a decision yet on whether the United States will resume nuclear tests next year?

THE PRESIDENT. No nuclear--

Q. Mr. Kent: I believe that the prohibition period runs out December 31.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, that is the prohibition, but we have implied, at least--I have forgotten, maybe we have stated--that we will not renew unilaterally the tests that have anything to do with the atmosphere.

Now, the whole matter of this business of tests, seems to have got a new impetus by the Russian statement the other day saying that they were ready to discuss, in conference, all of these technical difficulties and the technical implications of attempting to find out and identifying, you might say, undersurface disturbances and explosions.

This is itself not necessarily an advance, but it does show a willingness to discuss the thing in conference. Possibly this whole matter can be now discussed a little bit more intelligently than it was when there was denial that the road toward agreement is really beset with every kind of technical obstacle and difficulty that you can imagine.

It is a very tricky question and if we can get to a really intelligent discussion of the matter, we may make progress.

Q. Spencer Davis, Associated Press: Mr. President, would you say, sir, if there has been any recent communication from Mr. Khrushchev on the status of the American prisoners in China, and any hopes held out that China might renounce the use of force in its policy?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I very often observed to this group that I try to avoid the discussion of communications that I receive from another head of state. And, as a matter of fact, unless it is already a matter of public record, I try to avoid an admission that one is received or not received.

I think it is not conducive to good relationships with such governments by making these things public.

I will say this: I do not believe that Mr. Khrushchev felt that he had any personal responsibility about this matter, even though he knows of the subject and knew of my interest in it. So far as the renouncing of force, he, himself, did say in a speech in China that he believes all nations should renounce force and should resort to negotiations in order to settle their differences.

Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Mr. President, would you discuss the wider philosophical implications of this TV scandal? Is this something unique to an industry or is it something that perhaps reflects debasement of standards in the country?

THE PRESIDENT. I think to answer the last part of the thing, I do not believe it does, for this reason: the reaction of Americans seems to be so universal. Every one of them feels that not only he, himself he may have a little sardonic chuckle when he realizes how he was taken

but when he thinks about all America being deceived in this way I think he has a reaction immediately as expressed to me by my associates and friends and people I see. I don't think they are so much angry as they are bewildered; and it is like an old story, you know, of Joe Jackson in 1919 when they said, "Say it ain't so, Joe."

I think that is the way Americans feel about it. Now I do. believe that every kind of industry that touches on the function of the distribution of news and entertainment on a mass basis, they have a responsibility just as I believe every other group does where the United States beliefs, convictions, and welfare are concerned; just as I believe that every economic unit should remember that self-discipline is the thing that will keep free government working on and on through the centuries to come. We must think of it all the time. So I believe that they have got a terrific responsibility, but I think that it does not imply that America has forgotten her own moral standards.

Q. Sarah McClendon, Buffington (Vt.) Daily News: Sir, I think everybody agrees it is a wonderful idea to have one space and missile agency but would you clarify for us why in picking this agency, you picked a comparatively new agency and an agency that was different from the one that had done much of the development in the missiles and in space?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think you should be making a difference between missiles, by which we normally mean weapons, and space and the rocketry that will be useful in exploring the space.

I cannot, for the life of me, see any reason why we should be using or misusing military talent to explore the moon. This is something that deals in the scientific field, and to give this to the Air Force or Army or Navy, it just seems to me is denying what really is a sort of a doctrine in America. You have given to the military only what is their problem and not anything else; the rest of it stays under civilian control. That is the reason for having this agency.

Q. Warren Rogers, New York Herald Tribune: Last week, Dr. von Braun and Roy W. Johnson said that the Saturn project should be developed on a crash basis to beat the Russians in space explorations. They said $140 million for fiscal '61 was not enough; it should be $100 million more. What do you think of that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, I haven't had the studies placed before me yet as to what our people believe to be the proper thing, but I will say this: I have never seen any specialist of any kind that was bashful in asking for Federal money. [Laughter]

Q. Stewart Hensley, United Press International: You were speaking a moment ago about Cuba, and yesterday we had an attack on our Embassy in Panama.

Now, so many of these nationalist eruptions that keep coming over the landscape down there take on an anti-American tinge. Do you have any idea of anything new the United States can do to try to rectify the situation?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that no administration, supported by the Congress, I should say, has ever made more effort to develop better understanding between all of the countries below the Rio Grande than this one; and I think by and large there has been a very great measure of success achieved.

But there are in many of these countries an excitable group; people that are extremists and they start sometimes a mob action.

Now, as you know, or I think you know--I think the State Department gave you the statement, the protest, that our Ambassador made to the government of Panama--so you know exactly what our feelings are with respect to that, and that we confidently hope that every, not only in Panama, but every civilized government will make certain that law and order are preserved.

In a way it's a little bit puzzling to me. We have had some problems with Panama, and the treaty by which the canal was first built has been modified and revised a couple of times, each time giving a greater liberty or a greater degree or level of rights to the Panamanians.

Right today, we have been for, oh, a good time, several months, working with the Panamanians about the interpretations of the latest treaty, so that many problems that have come up to which they think they have not quite acquired all of the rights and privileges that they feel they should have, they have been studied in the effort to ameliorate all of the causes of these difficulties.

I do not know why this fact has not been brought out more, so that the feeling that causes such extraordinary performances would not be so acute.

Q. Paul Martin, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, I think you talked with Governor Rockefeller of New York for an hour and ten minutes last week and I believe that is the longest time you have spent in conversation with anyone since Khrushchev. [Laughter]

The Governor said you talked about some politics. Could you tell us anything about it?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would say this: this was a personal conversation and this is the first time that I knew that anyone was keeping a stop watch on me whenever I had a visitor.

It happens that I like Mr. Rockefeller. He served in my administration for a considerable time. And I will say this: I believe that a good portion of the time, I don't know whether more or most of it, but a good portion was about civil defense. It is a subject in which he and I have both been interested for a long time; and he, as Chairman of the Governors' Conference in this particular problem, wanted to talk to me about it.

Now we talked politics all across the board. You couldn't expect any two people that have political office to avoid that subject completely, and I could not possibly now remember any kind of contusion we reached. We just found it interesting, that's all.

Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, in discussions about a date for an East-West summit conference, the point has sometimes been made about the need to preserve the momentum resulting from your talks with Mr. Khrushchev.

The Russians talk about the need to preserve the spirit of Camp David. In deciding upon a time and place, do you feel that there is a "Spirit of Camp David" to preserve or a momentum which you want to maintain?

THE PRESIDENT. I have heard this expression, "The Spirit of Camp David," and I don't know what it means.

Now I think this: possibly what is meant is that Mr. Khrushchev and I, particularly when we spoke alone in the car or in other places where we had opportunities, tried to talk in principle and in generality more; and there was, of course, in such areas, much more agreement, seeming agreement, at least, than there normally is when you get down to some specific and knotty problem which the ministers very likely will take up.

So I think the "Spirit of Camp David," as they use it, and I must say I have never used it, must simply mean that it looks like we can talk together without being mutually abusive.

Now, momentum. This is a word that's used very often in discussion of intangibles, such things as development of foreign relations and agreements just as we talk about a snowball rolling downhill.

I don't believe it is quite that simple. I think that's clear because one of the reasons for having a Western summit is to determine upon such details as timing and agenda and all of the rest of it.

Consequently, this momentum, if it is kept up, cannot just be rushing into something that is unprepared. We have got to be properly prepared for it.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: I'd like to follow up Mr. Reston's question on public morality, so called, Mr. President.

You have often expressed the importance of spiritual and other intangible values, but there seems to be some evidence that the country isn't keeping your counsel.

In addition to--certainly the spiritual values are not the determining factor in the long deadlock in the steel strike, the motivation of people, contestants and sponsors in the television quiz scandal, that's prizes and profits--and in contrast, only yesterday the voters of New York State turned down a half-billion-dollar bond issue for school construction.

Don't these things indicate a serious imbalance in values, in your opinion?

THE PRESIDENT. What you are getting at is that selfishness and greed-occasionally, at least--get the ascendancy over those things that we like to think of as the ennobling virtues of man, his capacity for self-sacrifice, his readiness to help others. So I would say this: the kind of things that you talk about do remind us that man is made up of two kinds of qualities, and I believe some psychologists say they have all had their roots in the instinct for self-preservation.

I am not so sure, because I am not a psychologist, but I do say this: the first two things you talk about are both disappointing to me. Now, I don't know anything about the $500 million bond issue; there may have been things here that I don't know anything about, so I wouldn't want to class that with the other two as implying that we have been a little bit indifferent to the country's moral standing or our own moral standing. I just would not comment on the school bonds issue.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. President, would you agree to the internationalizing of the Panama Canal, as has been suggested by some; two, are you considering our building another canal in that area; and if we did, could we hold that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will say this, to your second question: here is one of those things that takes a lot of study, but for my part, for the last 14 years I have been in favor of building another canal, personally; but I would not say that this is something that I shall probably ever recommend.

Here is a thing that has to be studied from every possible angle with the other countries that might be involved and all the rest of it.

As to the internationalizing of the Panama Canal, that is something that, as of this moment, I would not even think of. We have got a specific treaty with Panama. We have scrupulously obeyed its provisions and indeed, for 50 years, most of our relationships with Panama have been a model. I believe that this particular incident that is so disturbing is really only an incident and should not be something that we should look upon as giving us a real reason for breaking up a relationship that has worked so well.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and seventy-fifth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:30 to 11:00 o'clock on Wednesday morning, November 4, 1959. In attendance: 224.

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/234556

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