Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

February 03, 1960

THE PRESIDENT. Good morning.

I have one correction I want to make for a statement I made in my last press conference. I said that Ambassador Eban was actually in my office when I made a particular statement about my attitude toward the impending Suez crisis at that time. I have had the staff look up the records. Actually, Foster Dulles came to my office at 6 o'clock in the evening, stating that he was to see Mr. Eban in a few minutes, and I made the same statement that I gave you last night [time] but I made it to him. I had confused that incident from what I said then with other visits, or at least another visit of Mr. Eban.

So, again, it shows that my memory, at least, is not perfect.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Some California Republicans seem to be rather surprised that you did not mention Vice President Nixon in your Los Angeles speech. Now that Mr. Nixon seems to have no opposition for your party's presidential nomination, do you intend to stick to your announced policy of endorsing no one before the convention?

THE PRESIDENT. I admit that such a concern now seems to be a bit academic. But it has been my policy, and I think it is a correct one-we're all human, and we don't know what is around the next corner. I maintain that there are a number of Republicans, eminent men, big men, that could fulfill the requirements of the position; and until the nominations are in as a matter of history, why, I think I should not talk too much about an individual.

I have so often, because of his close association with me, had opportunity and the occasion to express my admiration and respect for the Vice President, I am quite sure at least he is not unaware of my sentiments in this regard.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press International: Mr. President, the burden of some recent statements on Capitol Hill, primarily by generals, has been that we are well behind the Russians in missile development, with little or no prospect of catching up with them in the near future. I'd like to ask you, sir, as far as man's effort to enter space, as well as the development of military missiles, do you feel any sense of urgency in catching up with the Russians?

THE PRESIDENT. I am always a little bit amazed about this business of catching up. What you want is enough, a thing that is adequate. A deterrent has no added power, once it has become completely adequate, for compelling the respect of any potential opponent for your deterrent and, therefore, to make him act prudently.

I saw Monday morning in the Congressional Record--just after I got back from California--that day's Congressional Record had a statement of America's history in missile development. It's a very comprehensive one. I commend it to your attention to show what has been done--with a very slow start and with a complete neglect for a period--in the period, particularly in ICBM and IRBM development. And the record, I insist, is one to be at least quite gratified about.

As I recall, for 1960 there is, for missiles of all kinds, appropriated $6,690 million. This, it seems to me, is getting close to the point where money itself will [not] bring you any speed, any quicker development.

Q. Rowland Evans, Jr., New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, you mentioned the word "deterrent" in your answer to that last question. Yesterday, General Power said that our deterrent of heavy bombers cannot be properly safeguarded unless it is put on a full air alert. You discussed this with us before, but in view of General Power's testimony yesterday, would you give your view on that question?

THE PRESIDENT. No; too many of these generals have all sorts of ideas. But I do point this out: I have got the Secretary of Defense, whom I trust, and who I know is honest in his study, analysis, and conclusions. That is Secretary Gates. And beneath him, assisting him, is the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff, whom I similarly trust; and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with those two, are my military advisers. I have been long enough in the military service that I assure you that I cannot be particularly disturbed because everybody with a parochial viewpoint all over the place comes along and says that the bosses know nothing about it.

Now, I don't think anyone's trying to impugn the patriotism and the earnestness and the integrity of the group I have just mentioned. I think, myself, they are the ablest people we could get. That's the reason they were selected.

Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown Times: As the No. I Republican in the country, sir, are you seriously concerned about the future and the vigor of the Republican Party, and do you think the party needs more crusaders?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I know it ought to have a lot more recruits. [Laughter]

Now, you say vigorously, or whether I am concerned. I don't know whether that's the right word. I am genuinely interested to see the Republicans telling their story more eloquently and better than they have in the past, more often and on a more widespread basis, and to get these recruits that we need.

Q. Robert C. Pierpoint, CBS News: Mr. President, quite aside from the military implications of the space race, I believe your head of the USIA, George Allen, said recently before Congress that he feels we are in a race to space with the Russians, whether we want to be or not, and that also the United States prestige seems to be low because of our lag behind the Russians.

Now, I think that last week you told us that you don't believe that the international prestige of the United States is at stake in this race. I wonder if you could straighten out that confusion.

THE PRESIDENT. I made a long trip; and certainly if there wasn't an evidence that the prestige of America was rather high, then I was very badly mistaken in my own conclusions. And I think that most of the people of this group that went along with me, that they would have been mistaken.

It is idle to say that just exactly as we like to see this country ahead in every single activity that seems to us worthwhile, we want to see them ahead in space. This is a spectacular area in which we are now working. But let us remember this one thing: the reason for going into space, except for those activities that are carried on by the Defense Department as having some value to the security of the country, is purely scientific. Therefore, you are not talking about racing them in finding the particular items or in naming the particular course that you are going to run in this race; you work out a proper and an appropriate plan of scientific exploration, and you follow it positively, rather than trying to follow along behind somebody else.

Now, I have said time and again that because the Soviets are far ahead in this very large booster and engine, that, so far as distant space exploration is concerned, they are going to be ahead in that regard for some time, because it takes time to get that engine built.

Just taking over, this Saturn project from the Army: I have, after long study by the space agency, determined that the amount of money that we took over with that particular thing was not sufficient; and there's another hundred million being devoted, or at least recommended for devotion, to it. I believe it will be appropriated; and I believe that implies not only the determination of the United States to go ahead rapidly with this thing, I believe that we can look forward at the proper time to success.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: In the general context of the so-called spirit of Camp David, do you think the fact that the lend-lease talks came to nothing indicates anything about the general Soviet desire to negotiate on outstanding issues?

THE PRESIDENT. Again, I must repeat myself. I wasn't aware of any spirit of Camp David. I have heard it quoted a number of times, and I think that it was originated by people other than ourselves. No one denied that the talks there went on in an atmosphere that was personally friendly. That's the only way the spirit of Camp David could be defined.

But I think that these difficulties, when in this instance the Soviets tried to put two or three other problems together with the lend-lease talks, was a typical maneuver and there was nothing done. But it doesn't mean that sooner or later there won't be something done.

Q. William H. Knighton, Jr., Baltimore Sun: Mr. President, don't you think the country ought to have the benefit of your advice as to who you think the other Republicans are who could be President?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'll tell you what: there's a number of them, and I am not going into the business of nominating people. That's not my job. I want to make this very clear: I am not dissatisfied with the individual that looks like he will get it, not by any manner of means. I just simply say there's a number that could perform the duties of the office with distinction.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. President, there is concern in the Capital for fear you may fed it necessary to give atomic information, or even actual custody of atomic weapons, to those countries where we're going to have bases for nuclear weapons. Do you want to do that and, if so, inasmuch as we took our bases out of France on that quarrel with De Gaulle, would that mean we might put nuclear bases back into France?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you've got about a three-barreled question there.

But, Mrs. Craig, the law itself says what information the Executive can give to particular nations, and it defines rather accurately the nations to whom you can give this information. As far as giving away the bombs, this cannot be done under existing law.

I do believe this: that where we are allied with other nations and we are trying to arm ourselves in such a way as to make certain of our defense, we should try to arm them in such methods and ways as will make that defense more strong and more secure.

I would not ever, even if the law permitted, give away information that was still, in our opinion, withheld from the Soviets themselves. But when the Soviets have the information and know-how to do things, it's pretty hard for me to understand why we don't do something with our allies, as long as they themselves stand with us firmly in defending against the probable aggressive intent of communism.

Q. Charles H. Mohr, Time Magazine: You made clear in an earlier answer, Mr. President, how strongly you felt that SAC was not vulnerable to being wiped out in an enemy attack. Since this is at the heart of the current argument, I wonder if you could tell us whether you believe that we would get strategic warning of any enemy missile attack or, if you don't believe that, could you give us some of the reasons why you feel that SAC is not vulnerable, in a period of 2 or 3 years, to a very crippling blow.

THE PRESIDENT. If you will take the things that the Soviets could probably do 3 or 4 years from now and then we sit right where we are now and do nothing, well, that's a different story.

I just say this: I don't believe that anyone today can destroy all of our capabilities for retaliation, and they cannot destroy today enough of them that we couldn't retaliate very effectively to the point of destructiveness to them.

Now, as we go ahead, they will go ahead. But I would say that 3 years from now, if we are working as hard as we do now, we are going to be in the same relative position.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: In view of your answer to Mrs. Craig's question and the fact that the nuclear test negotiations at Geneva seem to be stalled, Mr. President, do you feel that it's becoming really impossible to stop the spread of nuclear weapons to the so-called "fourth" countries, or do you still look upon the test ban negotiations as a way to do this? Are you prepared to keep on with the moratorium?

THE PRESIDENT. Of course, if you had real test bans that applied to all nations, then the only way other nations could get weapons would be through sale, transfer, or gift.

Of course, it concerns any thoughtful individual as to the problem of the spread of these weapons to smaller and other nations, as the process of their manufacture may become more simple and as just through, you might say, the method of absorption the necessary know-how becomes more widespread.

I am of the belief that, if you could have now a ban on all testing that everybody could have confidence in, it would be a very, very fine thing to stop this--for this very reason, if no other: it is a very expensive business, to begin with. The very first bomb we produced, I think, cost America $2 billion or more before we ever had the very first one. Since that time, although you'd have to look this up, I think our appropriations have never been below $2 billion a year. So it is an expensive business.

Q. Mr. Roberts: Could I ask, sir, are you prepared, in face of the difficulties at Geneva, to keep our negotiator there more or less indefinitely? You put the moratorium on sort of a day-to-day basis months ago.

THE PRESIDENT. I want to keep him there as long as there is the slightest chance of success. We should get this kind of agreement as soon as we can.

Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, where do you expect to be and what do you expect to be doing one year from now?

THE PRESIDENT. I hope, out in the desert or down shooting quail in Georgia--or maybe just sitting in a rocking chair.

Q. Felix Belair, New York Times: Have you decided yet, Mr. President, in connection with the Panama Canal, what form of visible evidence of titular sovereignty should be displayed over the canal?

THE PRESIDENT. I'll tell you, Mr. Belair, here is a question that, if it had been asked me 3 years, I'd have known exactly what I would have said. One of the earliest tours I had in my military service was in Panama. I learned to know the people pretty well. I stayed there something over 3 years, I think, from '21 onward--6 years after I got out of West Point.

I think that not all of the difficulties that have come about have been entirely because of their demands. It is perfectly true there was a treaty made many, many years ago, more than 50, now. And the conditions of that treaty were changed from time to time as the whole condition of affairs in the world so demanded, just exactly like our Constitution has been amended 22 times.

I think that at times, because we did buy the territory--and everyone knows that the primary source of revenues for the Panamanian nation is the wealth that is brought there through the canal operations--that we suddenly decide that we must be a little bit too stern in our treatment of them. They are people that are sensitive. I don't know exactly now what you can do, because we have people that have suddenly gotten themselves into a state that believes that even if you ever had, for example, a flag flown as a courtesy to the nation in which titular sovereignty still resides, that this would be a very, very great abdication of American rights and responsibility. I think that this is getting a little bit beyond the rule of reason, because the treaty says that the United States may act, and in all respects can act, as if it were completely sovereign. Such language means that there is a titular sovereignty in the other nation, in my opinion.

So I haven't decided any particular thing. 1

1On April 19 the White House announced at Augusta, Ga., that the President had that day approved a nine-point program for improvement of relations between the United States and Panama with reference to operations in the Canal Zone (Department of State Bulletin, vol. 42, p. 798).

Later, on September 17, the Associate Press Secretary to the President announced that the President had "as a voluntary and unilateral decision on the part of the Government of the United States, approved and directed the flying of the flag of the Republic of Panama together with the United States flag on a daily basis in Shaler's Triangle in the Canal Zone."

Q. David Kraslow, Knight Newspapers: Mr. President, there seems to be considerable pressure in Congress for amending the Social Security Act this year. Can you tell us, sir, if the administration is planning to recommend any changes in the Social Security Act and what those changes might be, generally?

THE PRESIDENT. There is under consideration a possible change to run up the taxes by a quarter of a percent to make greater provision for the care of the aged.

There has been no conclusion reached in the administration; I have not yet made any recommendation on it.

Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, of late, Premier Khrushchev has started to talk, both publicly and privately, about Berlin and the Soviet demand that the West sign a separate peace treaty with East Germany. In his January 14 speech to the Supreme Soviet, he said that, unless the West agreed to a separate peace treaty with East Germany, the Soviets would go ahead and sign one with all the consequences that would flow from that. Now, do you regard such talk as violating the understanding that you reached with him at Camp David on the removal of threats from the Berlin situation?

THE PRESIDENT. I'll Say this: at Camp David nor anywhere else did he ever retreat from the statement that he had a right, if he so wanted, to make a separate treaty with East Germany; bringing to everybody's attention, of course, the fact that the West had made a special treaty with West Germany. But when he adds that this would immediately-when he talks about the consequences--make all of East Germany, including West Berlin, a sovereign, cutting it off from connections from the West, well, that, of course, would be a very grave situation that would be brought about.

Q. Carleton Kent, Chicago Sun-Times: Mr. President, the Senate yesterday passed a proposed constitutional amendment which abolishes the poll tax, gives the District of Columbia citizens the right to vote and Governors the right to appoint temporary members of the House under certain wartime conditions. How do you feel about this?

THE PRESIDENT. I think they make pretty good sense. Certainly I would think the poll tax, where you abolish it only for Federal elections, and to give the residents of the District the right to vote for the national ticket, I think are reasonable and should be done.

The other one is one that I think is brought about by the realization of the catastrophes that could occur if there should ever be the tragedy of war.

Now, I might add I have a couple more that I think ought to be added. t think Congressmen ought to be elected for 4 years, at the same time with the President, that is, the lower House, so called, the House of Representatives. I think also that the item veto should be an authority of the President and so stated in the national Constitution; because I know one thing: that would defeat pork barrels.

Q. Garnett D. Horner, Washington Star: Awhile ago, sir, while you were talking about the atomic weapons and information to allies, I got the impression that you might lean toward favoring changing the law so that you could provide allies with custody of weapons that Russia has or knows how to make. Was that correct or wrong impression?

THE PRESIDENT. From the very beginning, from what I knew about allied cooperation, and so on, I have always been of the belief that we should not deny to our allies what your potential enemy already has. We do want allies to be treated as partners and allies, and not as junior members of a firm who are to be seen but not heard.

So I would think that it would be better, for the interests of the United States, to make our law more liberal, as long as we classify our countries as those that we are confident, by our treaties and everything else, they'd stand by us, and stand by us in time of trouble.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: I would like to pursue this discussion about our relative progress with the Soviet Union from a different angle.

Have you considered the possibility that the American public may be confused by a psychological aspect of our struggle with the Russians? They may have more missiles than we. They did beat us to the moon. Their rate of economic growth now is faster than ours, and they are, net, turning out, for example, more trained engineers than we do. Now, individually, none of these factors is decisive. But cumulatively, is it not possible that a state of mind, a dangerous state of mind, is being created under which we would be in a position or be forced into a position to accept a posture of second-best in everything or anything.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think here and there you can find that in a country as big as Russia you are going to be certainly second-best; didn't they win the Olympic games last time?

Q. Mr. Morgan: I believe they did, sir, in many events.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, what did we do with that?

Let's remember this: if they find an athlete, they take him, and it's a national responsibility to train him and build him up until he's the best there is in the world, if they can make him such.

Now we have a free enterprise; we place above all other values our own individual freedoms and rights; and we believe, moreover, that the operation of such a system in the long run produces more, not only more happiness, more satisfaction, and pride in our people, but also more goods, more wealth.

Let's remember that dictatorships have been very efficient. Time and time again, look how we were overawed, almost, by Hitler's early years-overrunning Poland, and then overrunning the West, and going into Africa. Of course, we talked about this great efficiency. This is dictatorship.

If you take our country and make it an armed camp and regiment it, why, for a while you might do it with great morale, too, if you could get people steamed up like you did in wars; you might do this thing in very greater tempo than we now are doing it.

Democracy, we hope, is an enduring form of government. We are, therefore, trying to do these things at the same time we keep these values.

I would like to see our people--and I admit that they get disturbed and probably at times alarmed about something, particularly when the headlines give it an interpretation far beyond its true meaning, like hitting the moon. I've heard people say, "Well, soon there'll be colonies on the moon and they'll be shooting at the earth from the moon." I saw that in one story.

Well, this is long after you and I will be gone; that, I'll assure you.

Now, what we should think about and talk about more in the world are the values which we do treasure. They don't have them. And since we believe that in the long run men do learn to have this same belief about the same values, I believe that there is just as much of the seeds of self-destruction in the Communist system as they claim is in ours--they claim the inherent conflicts within our system are going to destroy it.

I think our people ought to have greater faith in their own system. Let's remember, you people are the bosses of the American Government-you the people, by your votes and your representatives, and so what do you want? All right, you can make the decisions. All you have to do is to inform yourselves and you will make good decisions. And that is exactly what we are doing, to say we want these things or we don't want them. So let's just be sure that we don't kid ourselves that somebody else, different from ourselves--because people in government are just you people. All right, then it's your responsibility to make sure that you are secure, that you are not alarmed and certainly not hysterical.

Q. Mr. Morgan: Then, sir, you don't feel that there is a basic danger of defeatism under the present circumstances?

THE PRESIDENT. Put it this way: none in my soul; I'll tell you that.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and seventy-ninth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:29 to 11:02 o'clock on Wednesday morning, February 3, 1960. In attendance: 225.

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/235084

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