The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you. Please sit down.
This morning, or maybe it was yesterday, hearings were starting again for a mutual security program. I don't want to take up too much of your time, for the simple reason that everyone here has heard expressed time and again my views about mutual security, its need for real support if we are concerned about our Nation's security, and our Nation's position in the international world. And, I repeat, it is not a partisan question; it's one of those things that should be discussed and debated on the basis of need and of logic and of good sense and fact, and not considered at all in any partisan attitude.
As I repeat that, you people know the dependence that I place upon it in assuring the security of the United States, and as a tool in our battle for a lessening of tension and some advancement toward peace. Any questions?
Q. Merriman Smith, United Press International: Mr. President, from the conference that you directed Ambassador Thompson to undertake yesterday in Moscow with Mr. Khrushchev, and from other reports to this Government, do you have any reason to believe that Russia is holding any American fliers as prisoners?
THE PRESIDENT. No. I have no reason to believe anything of this matter. Actually we are unaware of the fate of these individuals other than, of course, the six that were returned after their death. But I did, on a very personal basis, direct the Ambassador to take this issue again to Mr. Khrushchev. 1
1 On May 4, the Press Secretary to the President released the following statement in reply to a question concerning the conference Ambassador Thompson had with Nikita Khrushchev:
On instructions from the President, the United States Ambassador to the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, Llewellyn E. Thompson, today had an interview with the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R., Nikita Khrushchev, in connection with the case of the United States Air Force C-130 transport plane that was shot down by Soviet fighter aircraft over Soviet Armenia on September 2, 1958. The Ambassador's representation dealt particularly with the President's concern for the fate of the eleven members of the crew who are still missing and unaccounted for.
Q. Ray L. Scherer, NBC News: Mr. President, Mrs. Luce resigned because she said she felt her usefulness had been impaired in view of the bitterness involved. Do you think that Admiral Strauss would be well advised to do likewise?
THE PRESIDENT. I do not. I have told you again and again that I think here is a man who is not only a valuable public servant, but who is a man of the utmost integrity and competence in administration. And if we've got to the point where a man, because of some personal antagonisms, cannot be confirmed for office in this Government, then I must say we're getting to a pretty bad situation.
Q. William McGaffin, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, to get back to mutual security for a moment, some Senators feel that you are taking too timid an approach in your request for the mutual security program, and also that you are spending too much on military foreign aid and not enough on economic.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, with respect to this timid approach--I think I am correct, although I am speaking only from memory, and if I have to correct my statement I shall do so at my next meeting with you-I think that each time I have made recommendations on mutual security it has been cut down by the Congress. I therefore think that it has not been carried forward as vigorously as it should be.
Now, with respect to the military portion of this thing, I would remind you that if we are going to hold Korea, Taiwan, and one or two other areas where we are really committed under basic policy to protect, a large portion of this military aid goes there.
The Draper Committee found that we must do more to modernize the armies in NATO, and recommended very strongly that we have an increase in this part of the thing. This is where we stand at this moment.
Q. Mr. McGaffin: Well Mr. President, however, there has been considerable criticism that we have not been too wise in allocating military aid to, for instance, Pakistan. That aid is regarded by India as something hostile, and one reason why India's second year, second 5-year plan is in difficulties is that India felt it necessary to buy arms herself to counter the arms we are giving Pakistan.
THE PRESIDENT. I want to tell you that such questions that you are now raising have been studied hours and weeks and months, literally, by this Government, this administration, calling in often legislative leaders of both parties in the effort to get a reasonable and, as nearly as possible, correct answer about this whole thing.
Of course there is criticism. Everybody in this field has his own particular beliefs. But I say this: so far as I know, there has been nothing that is done here except on the basis of supporting the free world and America's position in that free world.
Q. Carleton Kent, Chicago Sun-Times: Mr. President, Mr. Truman told the Senate yesterday that the 22d amendment automatically makes the President a "lame-duck" when he enters his second term.
In the last 2 years, have you felt that you had one hand tied behind you by the amendment, as he said?
THE PRESIDENT. I haven't sensed that particular feeling. I find this, that it seems to me I am more bombarded with requests for help of all kinds, whether it be administrative, altruistic and charitable, or political, than I ever have in my prior years in the Presidency.
I have commented on this amendment in terms of a bit of, let's say, indecision in the meaning that I'd see some advantages and disadvantages on both sides. I think the first time I said I didn't think much of the amendment; the second time, as I recall, I said I rather believed that, after some study, on balance the amendment gives greater assurance to America than its repeal would.
But again I say it is something I am perfectly ready to submit to the convictions and opinions of the people of the United States because I don't feel too strongly about it.
Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, the foreign ministers meeting begins in 6 days. In advance of that, could you tell us how you regard prospects for settling specific differences with the Soviets at this meeting; and could you also tell us, sir, how much progress you would believe necessary in order to justify a summit meeting?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I couldn't talk to you very much in specific terms. We don't know what will come out.
Certainly I hope that there will be some progress, and actually, all of us do know that within the Soviet regime there is only one man who can talk authoritatively.
Therefore, if there is anything that gives enlarged hope for decreasing tensions in the world, then I think a summit meeting would become almost a--its occurrence would be a foregone conclusion.
Now, there is no point, at this moment, of trying to lay out in detail what will be our approach. Secretary Herter on Thursday night is making a report to the Nation in which he will discuss our propositions and proposals and attitudes in some detail, and I think that it would be best to wait for that.
Q. Thomas N. Schroth, Congressional Quarterly: Sir, in 1951, on July 3d, in London you made a strong plea for the free nations of Europe to unite. You referred to it, you said it was difficult to overstate the benefits that would accrue to NATO and the nations of Europe recruited to unite, and you referred to Sir Winston's desires in that same regard.
Would you care to assess what has happened since 1951 in Europe in this regard, and do you feel that it is still as urgent as ever?
THE PRESIDENT. I believe in it, really, with all my heart. I would never have gone to SHAPE in January of 1951 unless I believed that the interests of the whole free world would be served and that the advantages to be obtained by the free world were almost decisive, unless I believed thoroughly in this proposition that Western Europe must unite more closely.
Now, I never tried to establish a pattern, although in that particular talk I did urge a more dramatic and, you might say, precipitant move than I thought Europe was ready to take. But I did it for a very definite reason.
I knew from conferences with many governments that the leaders realized this was something that had to come about someday, and I wanted to do my part in helping people, the people of Western Europe, to understand the value.
Since then of course, I remind you we have had Euratom, we have had the Common Market developing, we have had the Steel and Coal Community developed and coming along; and so there have been many steps. By no means am I discouraged in this.
Frankly, I think there is no talk in my whole life that I worked on as long and as seriously as I did that one, because I believe it thoroughly.
Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, I believe it was a week or so ago that you expressed your indignation over the kidnaping by a Mississippi mob of a Negro prisoner and according to the news reports the FBI now has found the body.
I wonder if, as you review this episode, you feel that it emphasizes a need for stronger civil rights legislation, or if you have any other specific conclusions you draw from this affair?
THE PRESIDENT. Well I hadn't thought even about the idea that it needs new law in this particular case.
The State authorities got on the job immediately, they called in the FBI, they have been working in cooperation. Law has been violated, and I don't know how you can make law stronger except to have it-when you make certain that its violation will bring about punishment.
Now I know the FBI is on the job and I have every confidence that they and the State authorities will find some way of punishing the guilty, if they can find them.
Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: Mr. President, United Steel Workers are demanding that the steel industry base their wage settlement on first quarter profits which were at a record high. Is there any possibility, in your opinion, of economic controls if an inflationary contract comes out of these wage negotiations?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't know whether this high was a record or not, because I am told that in the first quarter of either '57 or '58 they were $2.03 a share and this year they were $1.86. But there is no use of taking just the technical argument as to whether there was greater or less profits. I say this, and I say it and emphasize it: here is something in which not only Government but the whole public, 175 million people, are involved; and their interests are going to be preserved or damaged or possibly even advanced by decisions reached by the employees and employers in this field. It is a basic industry and whatever is done affects all the rest of industry. I can say only this: that we must look to them for some good sense and some wisdom, I mean real business-labor statesmanship, or in the long run the United States cannot stand still and do nothing.
I say this: I deplore the possibility of putting the Government into this field, either as a party in negotiations and certainly in establishing laws to fix the levels of profits and of wages and prices. Once we do that, I believe we have gone to a route that is going to hurt the American system, as we know it, when we are going to do it in peacetime.
So therefore, I would again insist that the whole 175 million of us ought to make clear that we are concerned about this matter and this is not something where we are standing aside and seeing ourselves hurt.
Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Another point on mutual security, sir. A number of people, Mr. Nixon and Senator Kennedy among them, have just recently made recommendations for massive increases in aid to India. Do you share this view, and do you see anything pertinently urgent about it, in view of Peiping's mounting attacks on India?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I wouldn't want to answer precipitately here.
I will say this: from the beginning, India has been one of our great concerns. We have shown, I think, a very sympathetic and understanding attitude toward her government and its representatives in asking for our help in both the first and second 5-year plans. But when we say "massive" I get fearful about adjectives, and if I were going to discuss that question further, I would want to go again now into details of what we think they need and what we are prepared to give. It's certainly, there, one of the countries that we are, I'd put it this way, massively interested in, in order that the best interests of the free world will be served.
Q. Mr. Morgan: Just one additional point, if I may, sir.
Do you have any comment on Peiping's tactics of massive increase of attacks--propagandawise, at least--on India?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, no. For the moment, I merely say that I can quite understand Mr. Nehru's astonishment and maybe his sense of apparent indignation that these attacks would be made upon a nation which has tried so hard to be peaceful and neutral.
Q. Charles H. Mohr, Time: Mr. President, do you think that the situation in Iraq offers us an opportunity to improve our somewhat strained relations with President Nasser of the United Arab Republic? And if so, what steps are we taking? For instance, should the Russians withdraw any of their support at the first stage of the high dam, would we be willing to step back into that situation, or--
THE PRESIDENT. I discussed this Mideast situation and some of its intricacies last week, and I doubt that at the moment I am prepared to take any specific thing like stepping in to help with the Aswan Dam, and indeed, to do anything other than to say we are trying to be fair with everybody. We are not trying to promote personal quarrels or personal prestige, as such. We are trying to be fair in our relationships with these nations and to get every single one of them to recognize that in freedom and independence they have got a greater chance to go ahead in the realization of their own aspirations, rather than if they try to accept too closely an association with the Soviets.
Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, Speaker Rayburn said yesterday that the housing bill lacks only one Republican vote of coming out of the House Rules Committee. And he said this was rather strange that they couldn't get one Republican vote in view of the fact that you were for this bill, or at least for a housing bill.
I wondered if you have had any trouble with your--if your legislative aides have reported having any trouble persuading these Republican members of the Rules Committee to vote for the bill?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course this is a matter for the Republican leadership in the House, and I am not in the business of getting legislative aides to go around and get a particular vote for a particular bill in a particular committee.
My method is to work through the Republican leaders, and then my legislative aides help them, always in coordination with the leadership program.
Now, there is no question of where I stand on the housing bill. As you know, I put in an emergency bill where I asked for $6 billion worth of authorization for insuring home loans. I have asked for $200 million additional in housing loans for colleges; and a hundred million dollars extra in another field where it escapes me for the moment--what is the other hundred million? [Confers with Mr. Hagerty]
Well, I have forgotten--oh, urban renewal, where the funds are exhausted--urban renewal.
Q. Spencer Davis, Associated Press: Could you give us some insight into your talks with Sir Winston Churchill and whether or not any mention of Field Marshal Montgomery has come out in the discussions?
THE PRESIDENT. Well I think that we tried to talk about important things. [Laughter]
I found him, like all the rest of us, showing some of the wear and tear of advancing years, but he was alert. We had a nice talk at a family dinner about numerous questions around the world, both personalities and issues. Then I suddenly remembered that at that moment by London time he was up until 3 o'clock, and so we terminated the visit until I see him again at luncheon today.
Q. Robert C. Pierpoint, CBS News: I am wondering, sir, if you have the feeling possibly that Mr. Truman is avoiding or evading some of your invitations to meet with you at the White House?
THE PRESIDENT. I'll make one thing clear: when I send in a personal invitation, as differentiated from an ordinary formal state invitation, I always make it quite clear in the notes that I write that anyone with any reason, or that finds it inconvenient coming to that meeting, has the right to do so without question, and that I understand.
Now, with respect to any other connection or invitations of that sort of thing, I'd say now we're getting into the strictly personal field and that there is nothing to be said about it.
Q. Frank van der Linden, Nashville Banner: Sir, Mr. I. Lee Potter, who is chief of the Republican campaign to carry more votes in the South, recently predicted that the Republican candidates for President in 1960 would win as many Southern States as you carried in '56, largely because of another Democratic split.
Do you feel confident that either Mr. Nixon or Mr. Rockefeller will do as well as you did in the Southern States?
THE PRESIDENT. Have you got any other candidates? [Laughter] By your question, you see, you are putting me in the position of saying there can be only two possible candidates, and I say the Republicans have got a lot of good men.
Q. Mr. van der Linden: Let's say a Republican--
THE PRESIDENT. I'll put it this way: I hope that whoever is the Republican candidate carries far more States in the South than I did.
Q. Harold P. Levy, Newsday: Mr. President, Senator Symington says that contrary to the testimony of General Twining, we have no IRBM's ready to go in England. The Senator calls this, and I quote, "part of a deliberate policy to conceal from the people the weakness of our position."
Would you comment on this, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. No.
Q. Lowell K. Bridwell, Scripps-Howard: There are some indications that the Congress is rather reluctant to pass the penny-and-a-half-per-gallon gasoline tax increase which you requested, and instead, is showing some signs of wanting to transfer excise taxes from the general fund to a highway trust fund in order to keep the highway program going. Would you comment?
THE PRESIDENT. I think that everything that we need to do in this country, we ought to pay for.
They are talking now about, saying, "Well, we'll continue to build roads." But by this method that you describe, you would not be paying for other programs which the Congress obviously feels to be essential.
So, if they don't want to put in the cent-and-a-half additional tax on gasoline that I think is necessary to carry forward this road program effectively, then they ought to find the revenue to make good the deficits they would create in the general fund.
Q. David Kraslow, Knight Newspapers: Would you care to comment, sir, on a proposal to abolish military assistance to South America and Latin America and use the money instead to create a hemispheric police force under the auspices of the OAS?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I hadn't seen it put forward in exactly that way.
We have, as you know, a very great interest in the OAS, particularly in its economic development of that region. As you know we have gone into the International Fund, World Bank, recommending greater amounts through which those countries would benefit. We have advocated, and as a matter of fact have been engaged in helping to set up, the Pan American financial institution with one billion capital. All of that sort of thing we are trying to do.
Now, when it comes down to building up a common defense system, really of military units, you have got a lot of headaches and difficulties; and I would say it would have to be studied very thoroughly before any plan could possibly be accepted by anybody.
Q. S. Douglass Cater, Reporter Magazine: At the 2-day conference now being held on India, with Mr. Eric Johnston sponsoring it, the point has been made that India's present rate of progress is really not fast enough, particularly in view of the undeclared competition with Red China just to the north.
Have you given any thought to what kind of impact program, combining public and private aid, might spur India to make the necessary progress?
THE PRESIDENT. Might do what?
Q. Mr. Cater: Spur India to make the kind of progress that will--
THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course I have given a lot of thought to it, and everybody in this particular branch of Government has done the same. We have, after all, limited means.
Now, we are a rich country, and I believe that we will be richer as we are very generous but very selective and very wise in the programs we adopt to help other countries. One of these is India. But, since everybody wants more than you can give, you have got a problem that is never quite to be solved. I didn't know that Eric Johnston had a symposium on this matter, but I know that everybody in the State Department, the ICA, Defense, and everybody of that group in Government is always interested in it. I assure you this: I believe that India's progress should be more rapid, but I don't say that we have a sole responsibility to make sure that it is.
Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and fifty-eighth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:32 to 11:02 o'clock on Tuesday morning, May 5, 1959. In attendance: 211.
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/235599