The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. Good morning. Please sit down. We'll go to questions.
Q. Merriman Smith, United Press International: Mr. President, do you feel that the results of your meeting with Prime Minister Macmillan will lead to a reduction of tensions with Russia; and in this connection, sir, what, if any, conditions do you attach to your attending a summer summit conference?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, first of all, the first part of your question--all of this exercise of negotiating and dealing with the Soviets has as its basic purpose the reduction of tension. We have been, the free world has been, trying to bring that about for a good many years.
Now, with respect to conditions laid down in the notes, as you people well know, all of these notes have to be coordinated with our friends, including NATO. This has now been done. Our note will be sent very shortly; and very quickly after that, as quickly as it can be done, it will be released.
So I would suggest for the actual letter of our intentions there is a place to find it, and very quickly. 1
1 On the following day the Department of State released the note, dated March 26, from the U.S. Government to the Soviet Government concerning the United States proposal that a meeting of the foreign ministers of France, U.S.S.R., the United Kingdom, and the United States be convened in Geneva on May 11 to consider questions relating to Germany, including a peace treaty with Germany and the question of Berlin. The note is published in the Department of State Bulletin (vol. 40, p. 507).
Now, I just will say this one thing: I have been talking for some years now about the convictions that I hold with respect to this whole business. I have never changed them; I don't expect to change them, unless there is something cataclysmic or, let us say, unexpected, rather, that comes along and that would bring some change.
Q. Robert C. Pierpoint, CBS News: Mr. President, do we have any new proposals to discuss with Premier Khrushchev at the summit, and if so, could you tell us something about them?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I can't go into any detail of that, because this is exactly, of course, what the exercise of coordinating with our friends has to do with. We have to be with them as a unit when we make any kind of proposals. There will be many proposals made, but I couldn't discus them now.
Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Sir, what do you think of the idea of a series of summit conferences where the world leaders could get off in some secluded spot and discuss informally the problems of the world?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, it is rather difficult to visualize such a thing. If you meet with a group of world leaders, it is rather hard to keep the spotlight off of it. And if you are going to talk, doing this informally, it would be with the batteries of interpreters and recorders and all that sort of thing. It would almost inevitably change, I think, into something rather formal.
I will say merely this: if, assuming that we have an atmosphere that permits periodic negotiation, gives some hope of its beneficial effects for our country and for the free world, well, certainly I would never decline to go along in that kind of an effort.
Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: Sir, on a related question, could you tell us the value of Project Argus as you understand it now, and especially whether the results are likely to lead you to alter the nuclear test ban proposal by limiting the ban to tests only in the atmosphere, for example.
THE PRESIDENT. The Argus tests were conducted under conditions that required new methods of evaluation of the results. And they were conducted outside of the atmospheric tests, so that there would be no additional fallout.
Those results, by the way, were picked up from Explorer IV. That is why we put up the Explorer IV, and it was the instrument from which we have gotten all the information that we have gotten.
Now, the purpose had to do both with the IGY, that is the International Geophysical Year, and it had also certain security aspects. Those results have been under study for a good long time--months, really. And only now have my scientific people separated out the ICY information, which we are obligated to make public to the world, and those things which have a potential military value. This has been done. And today, or maybe it is tomorrow--today, I guess--today there is quite a report that will be available to you; I would say later in the day. 2
2 The report on the Argus experiment, prepared under the direction of the President's Science Advisory Committee and the IGY Committee of the National Academy of Sciences, was released by the White House on March 26.
Now, as to whether or not this will lead to some agreement that we would have a ban that would be only in the atmosphere--in other words, where additional radioactive material would come into the atmosphere-I cannot tell. With us, the basic question has been that of veto: can we establish a system where each can have confidence in the reports of the other. And if that has been done, why I imagine there are a hundred tangents that could be explored and discussed in such a meeting.
Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. President, you have spoken of the difficulty of you as President leaving the country for any length of time. Would you like to have a summit conference in the United States with Mr. Khrushchev attending?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, if I tried to make that conference here, I would know of no place you could do it except in the United Nations Building. You see, the job of having all these simultaneous translation instruments, and of the building, the accommodation, so set up that it can be done, that would be the only place. And New York is a very crowded place.
There is another thing: if I am here, I am on the flank of this whole group of nations to be talking, and it is a little bit unfair, I think, to ask them all to come over here, because they all have to go a long distance. The purpose would be to get into a central point.
Now, I don't mean to say that I bar this idea from consideration. I just say we have not taken it seriously as one of the prospects at the moment.
Q. Charles W. Roberts, Newsweek: Mr. President, without anticipating the message that will go out to the Soviets, I would like to ask about your use of the word "justify" in your broadcast a week ago Monday.
You said that we wouldn't go to the summit unless it were justified by a foreign ministers conference. Would the breakdown of a foreign ministers conference justify it as well as real progress toward an agreement?
THE PRESIDENT. I have been questioned in many quarters about the use of that word. I thought that it was clear, and I meant when I used it only this, that there was progress that justified it.
Now, if somebody else has taken a different meaning, or a different possibility, contingency, it is different from what I had at the moment I made the talk.
Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post: Mr. President, there has been some comment in print over the fact that you did not have Vice President Nixon at Camp David for the talks. It was suggested that he was absent became you want to appear neutral in the prospective battle between Mr. Nixon and Governor Rockefeller. Would you care to comment?
THE PRESIDENT. You are making a rather unusual premise there-this is all between Mr. Nixon and Mr. Rockefeller. [Laughter]
No, I'll tell you: we thought about asking Mr. Nixon. He is busy. He has got here some other things he was talking about and thinking about when we were up at Camp David. And then I myself undertook to get him in. We did have quite a long meeting to keep him fully acquainted with every single idea that we discussed.
And I have no idea of tempering my actions or my own thinking according to the possibilities of a political contest that may come about at some future tune.
Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, what is your feeling about a plan which we were told was discussed at Camp David for some kind of weapons freeze or ceiling in an area of central Europe?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't know who could have told you that. If anyone did, they would do it without my consent and without the consent of any others at the conference. And if I should attempt to say whether or not this question was discussed, or with any ideas put forward, then I would be compelled, I think, to talk and tell you everything we talked about. I don't think that would be justified.
Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: Mr. President, did you have occasion to reassure the British on objections they have raised to several recent restrictive U.S. trade actions, including the possibility of smaller quotas on wool fabrics?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, yes, we talked. As a matter of fact--and this of course was outside any secret realm--everybody knows that we are concerned about this thing. I believe it is not only the wool fabrics, but it is electrical machinery and I believe some activities in the airplane realm.
Now, both of us agreed this: to study it as seriously, as exhaustively as we can, because both of us believe in what we call the principle of interdependence. We believe that you cannot keep a coalition of free countries, each with its own problems, its own aspirations, its own special conditions--you cannot bring them together, keep them close together, unless we adopt cooperative measures that do promote the interests of all. And to be too selfish, or, let us say, too shortsighted in looking at our own possible advantage for the moment--I think the greatest need is to look at the long-term benefits of the whole group, because with that group our own fortunes are tied up.
Q. John R. Gibson, Wall Street Journal: Mr. President, on the trade matter, your recent action on controls for oil imports has raised some question in the country about whether or not you are going back in your longtime opposition to price control. There was an action in there relating to price regulation, perhaps. Would you comment?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, the only comment in that statement was that the committee would have to continue its study on this oil agreement to see whether or not the security of the Nation did demand any increased prices. And I meant it just exactly that way, because--look here: suppose you make a decision, OCDM makes a decision, that the national security is involved in certain quotas or certain actions to protect a particular industry in our country. Now, if you would run the prices too .high, you could be very definitely weakening the national security of our country because you could hurt our economy to the point that it would be indeed difficult to keep our security on the level we want.
So what I am trying to say is, here, you have got problems that act and interact and react on each other in such a way that you just can't make a complete, perfect decision today, or one that you hope will be a practicable one, and know that it is going to be exactly the right one a year later.
Q. J. F. Ter Horst, Detroit News: Sir, yesterday the House approved your Development Loan Fund by reversing the action of a powerful committee, the Appropriations Committee. Since this would not have been possible without strong Democratic support, do you think you were a little hasty last fall, or perhaps ill-advised, in the campaign to label Democrats as wild or reckless spenders?
THE PRESIDENT. If you will just go back to all my speeches, you will find that I carefully defined the people, not a whole party, and I carefully made that clear. I said there were some that were reckless spenders, and I talked about it, and I think it was perfectly legitimate as a political argument in a political fight.
Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Senator Byrd says he has urged you to veto the appropriation bills which were substantially larger than your recommendations.
Do you have an understanding with Senator Byrd?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't even have an understanding with my own budget officer or my Secretary of the Treasury. There is no one who knows, until a bill is before me--not even I--whether or not that bill is going to be vetoed.
Now, I do respect Senator Byrd's position in this whole business, because he agrees, as I do, in the theory that we simply must get Federal expenditures into a better status than they have been and are threatening to become today.
Q. Sarah McClendon, San Antonio Light: Sir, the farmers of the Rio Grande Valley have hundreds of acres of cabbages which they want to give to the hungry coal miners and their families in Kentucky and Pennsylvania and other States. They have offered to give this and to pack it for shipment. There is no legal way to get it up there under the present setup, unless you have some emergency funds that perhaps you could use for this. The railroads say they cannot take it for free, although that is permissible by law.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I hadn't heard about this cabbage, but I am all for it--[laughter]--because I happen to be one of those people who like cabbage in all its forms.
So, if we can get it to them, why, I will look into it, I promise you. 3
3 The President later referred to the Department of Agriculture for study, the question dealing with food shipments into Kentucky. A memorandum from Acting Secretary of Agriculture, True D. Morse, dated and released April 6, stated that while no cabbage had been offered to the Government by Texas growers, it was his understanding that private transportation had been arranged for the donated cabbage. Mr. Morse further noted that substantial amounts of other surplus farm products were being distributed by the Government to needy persons in Kentucky.
Q. Rutherford M. Poats, United Press International: Can you give us your comments, sir, on the Tibetan revolt and your views as to the prospects or possibilities of any outside assistance to the rebels?
THE PRESIDENT. Frankly, I looked at the thing again this morning. Our reports are so fragmentary, so--as a matter of fact--sketchy, that there is very little to deduce from the occurrence, except that the people of Tibet were very much disturbed and have become very restive under the control exercised over them, and apparently the Chinese have had to bring in some reinforcements. There has been a very considerable amount of guerrilla type of fighting, and I believe some burning in some parts of the city.
But we don't know enough about it to make a conclusion at this moment.
Q. Roland Evans, Jr., New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, Congress is leaving town this week for the Easter recess, halfway through the first session. Would you assess the record so far, and tell us whether you are satisfied with the actions of Congress to date.
THE PRESIDENT. I think, Mr. Evans, I have been asked that question in every session of every Congress we have had, along about the Easter time.
I don't believe there is any way--no one can predict Congress, as far as I know. Its actions come in spurts. Usually in the first part of the session there is a lot of studying and talking and speechmaking, and then suddenly there are a lot of bills up for real action. I know that they come in very rapidly at the last minute, because I have such stacks on my desk at the end that it is a wonder you can get them all signed in time. So I think it is just futile to try to evaluate their accomplishments today or what we expect in the future.
Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, what would be your attitude regarding a summit conference if before such a meeting could be arranged the Russians were to sign a separate peace treaty with East Germany?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know that--first of all let's start with this. I believe they did sign a treaty and filed it with the United Nations some time back, several months. I believe that any signature by itself would not necessarily have any effect particularly because of this. We are talking about actions, and we are quite sure and clear in our own minds that the mere signing of a new peace treaty, or a so-called peace treaty, or a codicil to that treaty, an addendum, would not in itself vitiate our rights which we are determined to protect.
Q. Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News: On the summit, again, Mr. President, in the past you have indicated many times that you thought the summit conferences were not very good means of diplomacy unless they met to ratify previous agreements. How do you feel now about the argument that the only man in Russia you can do business with is Soviet Premier Khrushchev?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think it is perfectly clear that he is the only man who has the opportunity, let us say, the authority really to negotiate. If you had anyone rise with whom you were negotiating--except in detail, or method or procedure or agenda, things like that--I really believe that the only way that man could do anything would be to be on the telephone all the time with Moscow. So in effect you would be negotiating directly with Moscow. And I think that there is probably some validity to the argument that if you are going to talk really substantive measures, and hope to get some agreement that can be valid on both sides, considered valid on both sides, that he has got to get into the picture pretty well.
I want to make this very clear. This doesn't mean that anyone can command anybody else to come to a summit meeting. You can't bluff them or blackmail them or anything else. This is to be a meeting, if there is one, of heads of government who are acting voluntarily and because of their beliefs in the possibilities, with some kind of grounds for such a belief, that real measures can be discussed profitably by all of us.
Q. Don Oberdorfer, Knight Newspapers: Mr. President, the workers in the steel mills are already tightening their belts for what seems to them to be an inevitable steel strike this summer.
Isn't there anything that the public or the Government or you, yourself, can do to head off this new injection of price-wage inflation, and do you have any plans along this line?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think you know that some time ago I appointed a very high-ranking Cabinet committee to study all of these matters of inflation and of the expansion of our economy without inflation, a sound dollar, and so on, and they have been studying very earnestly.
Now, I have to make it clear that it has been the policy of this Government to keep outside the business of collective bargaining, and not to inject itself into that process, so far as any specific recommendation is made.
But over and over again I have said, with all the emphasis I can, that here is a place, if the United States is to go ahead economically, continue to go ahead, here is a place where labor and management must show statesmanship on both sides. Frankly, I would expect, as a measure of their statesmanship, to see whether it can be brought about, in their argument, that whatever it is, that there need be no advancement in the price of the commodity the public has to pay.
The reason that I say this so emphatically is this: while this is a matter between the steelworkers and the steel companies, the whole public is affected by everything they do, and it would be completely out of character for me to pretend to ignore it and wash my hands, like Pontius Pilate; I don't mean to do that. But I do mean to say, if we are going to retain the methods and the procedures that belong properly in a free economy, they must do it, and they must do it in such a way that the price is not compelled to go up.
Q. Kenneth M. Scheibel, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, another question on Congress: what do you think of the practice of some Congressmen of putting their relatives on the payroll, or renting the front porch to the Government?
THE PRESIDENT. I believe I will let the editors answer that one. [Laughter]
Q. Henry N. Taylor, Scripps-Howard: Sir, in reference to this Soviet peace treaty with East Germany which you referred to, you mentioned it being signed several months ago. I think we are aware of a draft peace treaty which they have said they might sign with East Germany, or at least propose.
THE PRESIDENT. I could be mistaken, but I am sure that they filed a document with the United Nations some months back. If they didn't, I will correct it and make an apology for my error. But that is what I remember.
Now, they do, of course, talk about a new one, but that has a different kind of meaning, because some of the things that were in that one, as I understand it, they now want to put in another one, so they call it a new one, I guess.
Q. Frank Bourgholtzer, NBC News: Mr. President, can you tell us anything now about the role you think Secretary Dulles may play in these forthcoming negotiations?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know right now, of course. I talked to Secretary Dulles 30 minutes ago, and he is planning to leave for Florida on Monday, I think it is. Everything going well, he will go down there for a period of recreation and convalescence. The doctors will be watching him closely, of course, and hope he can be back in harness in a reasonable time. But as long as he is capable of working, that is, as long as he can fed physically that he can work, in some capacity, I will never let him go--that I can assure you.
Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, in connection with your talks with British Prime Minister Macmillan, there have been confusing and contradicting reports concerning whether you actually agreed on an unconditional summit meeting. Would you care to dear that up for us?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, isn't that odd? So far as I know, no one that engaged in that conference made any statement about this whatsoever. So there is some reporting around here I don't understand; although someone read me excerpts where one said in effect that Mr. Macmillan had put one on my jaw, and the other paper said I sort of hit him over the head with a ball bat or something. Now, I think we just better wait to see what comes out in these documents.
Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, in view of the continuing high level of unemployment, despite our strong industrial comeback, what obligations, sir, executive and legislative, do you believe fall upon the Federal Government to cope with such unemployment, which is of course very acute in some areas at the present time.
THE PRESIDENT. You are talking, I suppose, about the effects of increased mechanization and automation. I had a Governor come in to see me the other day. He stated this--he told a number of coal miners that were now laid off from the peak level of employment, and he was told that with methods now used, you could get back to peak production with the employment in his State only of an additional 2,000 people. This is a problem that is going to take all the best brains that there are. But I am quite sure that just arbitrary political action from the Federal Government is not going to do it.
Q. Frank van der Linden, Nashville Banner: Sir, there is increasing speculation in the newspapers that Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson may be the Democratic presidential nominee next year. I wonder, sir, if you think he is well qualified and if he would be hard for the Republicans to beat. [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. The only thing I will say about this is that the Senator has been one of my warm personal friends for many years, and like myself he belongs to the "Cardiac Club." [Laughter]
Q. Charles H. Mohr, Time Magazine: Regarding your remarks about Secretary Dulles, Mr. President, have you had any preliminary reports from the doctors that indicate that the radiation treatments have perhaps retarded the disease, already in such a hopeful way that you are pretty sure he is going to come back after that Florida vacation, or have the doctors reported to you yet?
THE PRESIDENT. The doctors just say "We will give you our final answer when we can be sure of it"--that this is not the time yet to make a prognosis in which they could have any real confidence.
Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and fifty-fifth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:19 to 11:00 o'clock on Wednesday morning, March 25, 1959. In attendance: 260.
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/235357