The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. Good morning. I have no announcements.
Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, in connection with the agreement you reached with Prime Minister Macmillan, do you have in mind a moratorium on small underground nuclear tests that would run beyond your term of office; and, if so, do you feel it would be binding on your successor?
THE PRESIDENT. You will recall that the agreement said that there would be unilateral pronouncement, unilateral action, and therefore it would be Presidential action. I think--my own idea is--that any successor would have the right to exercise his own judgment in the matter.
Q. Merriman Smith, United Press International: Mr. President, yesterday when this moratorium and the duration of it was under discussion at Camp David, did Vice President Nixon have a voice in determination of the American position on that moratorium?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I couldn't possibly answer in particular detail. What happens is this: as you people have known for 7 years, every time there are important conferences, I do my best to have the Vice President present--for the simple reason, if I have an accident or anything happens to me, he has to take over. So, therefore, he is never denied opportunity for discussion in any meeting. But I could never tell you in detail what his particular ideas were, unless we happened to get in an argument of some kind about it.
Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, another question about Mr. Nixon. He has now twice declared in public speeches that he will not seek election on the record of the administration alone, but on the basis of an expanded program of his own. As far as you are concerned, is he now free to enunciate his own positions, even if they differ or go beyond yours; or is this a prerogative that Mr. Nixon has had all along?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, let us say this: Mr. Nixon has been part of this administration and certainly will be until January 20th next, so his voice has always been heard in any discussion as to policy.
Now, I should think he would be absolutely stupid if he said that you were going as far as the record of this administration would carry you and then stop. This world moves. I'll tell you, if I were not so fortunate as to be stopped here and don't have to go any further with this thing, certainly I would be looking for new ways and directions in which to carry on what I conceive to be the responsibilities of the Federal Government.
If he doesn't say that he is going to build on what has been so far accomplished, I think he would be very foolish. So, I completely applaud what he has to say about the thing.
Q. Carleton Kent, Chicago Sun-Times: Mr. President, Governor Collins, of Florida, recently declared that he felt it was morally wrong for operators of variety stores to take Negroes' money in other parts of the store and yet refuse to give them service at luncheon counters. Can you discuss your opinion of that problem?
THE PRESIDENT. I think I have made my position rather clear. I think that eventually the conscience of America is going to give to all of us equal economic and political rights, regardless of such inconsequential differences as race and so on.
As I tried to make it clear, every one of these incidents seems to have some specific slight difference, when compared with any other incident, and they bring up all sorts of possibilities of local interpretation and local action. I cannot possibly be familiar with all of them. I just stand by the fact that I think eventually the conscience of America will bring this about.
Q. John M. Hightower, Associated Press: Mr. President, could you help us understand a little better the negotiating situation which might arise in Geneva in the light of what you just said about the position of your successor on a nuclear test ban?
As I gather, if a treaty were drafted, it probably would not be completed under the most favorable circumstances for 6 weeks or 2 months or 3 months, something like that. That means that at most, the new-the unilateral declaration would be good for about 6 months. What would be the position thereafter? Would you be in position now, for example, to say to the Soviets that you believed the circumstances were such that your successor would surely continue the moratorium?
THE PRESIDENT. This is, I think, the main point in answering the question: every government understands the powers and limitations of each of the individuals who is responsible for negotiating. Therefore, while you would remind the other governments, it would practically be unnecessary for me to say that in our country we do have a separation of powers. Under a situation where you have a simultaneous and voluntary renunciation of testing for a stated period, if that period went beyond your own term of office, I personally think it would have to be reaffirmed by a successor, if it were to be effective.
I haven't asked the Attorney General for a specific ruling on this point, but I shall do that as soon as I can. That is my own feeling, that would be the answer.
Q. Rowland Evans, Jr., New York Herald Tribune: In view of your well-known concern over bipartisanship in foreign policy, sir, I wonder whether you would discuss the question of Democratic participation at the summit, and whether you think it might be advisable to have a Democrat at that Paris meeting, even if a treaty isn't ready for actual signing on May 16.
THE PRESIDENT. The man that I would think would be the principal one in the Senate who would want to have something to say about this is the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. I believe he has an understanding with Mr. Herter. I believe, as to the general effect, that when you are having what you hope to be intimate discussions with heads of governments, trying to uncover and discover areas where some kind of progress will be made, that there is no thought of making treaties or the kinds of agreements in which the Senate would be interested.
I think that Senator Fulbright has, before this, intimated or stated that he thought this was not the place for this kind of membership of the group that would go.
Now, I think I have never gone abroad without making some attempt to get a hold of the leaders of both parties, try to tell them what seems to be in the wind, what we are hoping to do, and sort of warning them that you didn't at the moment expect any treaties to be projected. Whenever there is any treaty projected, and we believe should be considered carefully, then I would certainly say you have to have Democratic participation.
Q. E. W. Kenworthy, New York Times: It's been a week and a half since Ambassador Bonsal returned to Havana, and in that time the attacks upon the United States have grown increasingly more violent. Are you satisfied that the Castro Government sincerely wishes to compose the differences with us through negotiation?
THE PRESIDENT. Really, I can't guess on the thing very much. I will say this: any progress in that direction has been disappointing to me. We have sent back Mr. Bonsal because we thought it was a better thing to do, in view of certain statements that had been made; but the whole thing, our attitude stands as it has been before. We stand ready to discuss all of the complaints that the Government of Cuba has against ours, and we certainly think it would be reasonable and decent in discussing them. That is as far as I can go.
Q. John R. Gibson, Wall Street Journal: There is a certain amount of concern, both here and in Western Europe, about the growing trade rivalries between our allies in Western Europe. Could you comment on our policy in this respect, and to what extent if any this has come up between you and the Prime Minister?
THE PRESIDENT. With respect to the Prime Minister, while he mentioned this subject casually to me, he did not in private conversations with me bring it up at all, beyond that. He knows there is a problem.
Now, for our point, our policy has been this: we stand for the policy of cooperating with others to eliminate or to reduce barriers to. trade.
Unfortunately, some of these methods that are proposed, in certain instances would bring down, in other instances bring up, barriers. So, it is not an easy and simple problem, and it is the reason they are going to have this Paris trade council to discuss the thing. It is a delicate thing and it affects every country in Europe; not merely the Six or the Seven, but every other one.
Q. William McGaffin, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, when the issue of ending nuclear tests was first raised in the 1956 campaign, you did not seem to think very much of the suggestion. As a footnote to history, it would be interesting if you could tell us what has caused you to come around to your present position.
THE PRESIDENT. I don't believe that there is any place you could find where I said I was against cessation of tests. I said I was against cessation of tests except by an arrangement which gave mutual right for inspection. At least this was my whole attitude toward disarmament, still is, and this inspection is only one of the fringe subjects--I mean the nuclear tests--the fringe subjects on the whole field of disarmament. So, I think there has been no basic difference, except to this extent: that if we could go so far in setting up these reciprocal intelligence--not intelligence, inspectional--systems, that underneath the so-called threshold we could certainly have a continuation of a moratorium that would permit opportunity for a joint or coordinated study and program for permanent elimination of those tests. But, remember, the heart of it is mutual inspection and verification.
Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: A couple of weeks ago, Mr. President, you were frank in stating your preference for Vice President Nixon as the Republican presidential nominee. I wondered if you could be equally frank with regard to the vice presidential nomination? How about Governor Rockefeller, for example?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Wilson, I said this: we were talking, not between Mr. Nixon and any other Republican that had been mentioned--were there two candidates in the field, I would have to observe my self-imposed limitation that I had always before observed, whether in State or Federal office-seeking--we were talking about a candidate on my side and the numerous ones on the other. I had my preference, and I said even to the point of bias.
I would say this about the Vice President: certainly if Mr. Rockefeller were nominated, he would be one that would be acceptable to me; and I think I have said here several times, I think I can name a score of Republicans of real stature that would be acceptable in this office.
Q. Edward V. Koterba, United Features Syndicate: Sir, at some sessions of the White House Conference on Children and Youth, there has been some talk that the youth of today is soft, less rugged mentally and physically than the children of a few generations ago; and that also, in fact, that goes for the modern parent.
Do you agree, sir, that too many people in the United States these days are more interested in seeking pleasure and comfort and wealth than they are in building up our moral and physical values?
THE PRESIDENT. I'm not going to comment on the moral strength of the thing, because this is obviously something that really gets an expert.
I do believe that if we lose moral strength, we have lost our greatest asset.
Let's take this matter of physical fitness. It is not a matter that we deliberately set about doing; but here is what happens: we are a people that, when we see a new convenience or a new comfort in our lives, we go about it and try to earn enough to buy that kind of thing. So, in Europe today you see children, as you know, by the thousands, bicycling along the Holland roads and the Paris roads and so on. In our country, you don't see it. The children go to school by buses, and if they have to walk more than 4 or 5 blocks, I think their parents get a little bit frightened, there is so much traffic on the roads; and so they want to get them up there. So the child doesn't walk, he rides somewhere.
Here is what happens: the first of these youth fitness conferences that I called back about 1954, Mr. Kelly, from Philadelphia, who has been very interested in this, came down and gave me some statistics. He gave a whole series of physical tests that the children of the United States, I think about 15,000 here, and about four or five thousand in each of the European countries took. The alarming results were--well, they were very depressing.
Now, I think this: all of these people are trying to find ways of correcting this thing. But I don't think that it is anything that we deliberately did and said we wanted to be affluent and soft. It's just our mode of life has brought about something we have to overcome, that's all; and we have to do it very earnestly.
Q. J. F. Ter Horst, Detroit News: I'd like to jump, sir, from the youth to the aged, if I may.
There has been a lot of controversy on Capitol Hill and we understand also within administration circles regarding what kind of medical care should be provided for senior citizens. And, some of the administration critics have even gone so far as to say the President does not understand this problem because he has never had to defray his own medical bills. I wonder, sir, if you could help us understand what your position and what your philosophy is toward what the Government should really do for senior citizens and what they should do on their own.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, I'll start off with this: you start off asking what the Government should do. There are lots of governments, and the thing I object to is putting everything on the Federal Government. I point out to you people all the time, if a city or a county or a State has to raise funds, if they have to do it even by borrowing, they have to go into the market with their bonds. The Federal Government tries to do that also, as long as it is fiscally responsible, but the Federal Government can print money. Nobody else can. So, it is always a little caution that you ought to tuck in the back of your minds when you think just of bringing in new responsibilities and new expenses in the Federal Government.
Now, to talk about this specific thing: I have, from the time this subject was discussed with me very thoroughly and exhaustively away back in 1951 and '52, I have been against compulsory insurance as a very definite step in socialized medicine. I don't believe in it, and I want none of it myself. I don't want any of it.
At the same time, there has been a great deal of progress made in this whole field. The number of people that have come under the voluntary health insurance programs has been very great, increasing rapidly. We still leave with ourselves, however, the problem of those people who are not indigent--taken care of under that State assistance act, I forget the name of it--but the people who are just too low incomed to take care of these catastrophic illnesses.
I think we have got to develop a voluntary program. As a matter of fact, in all our discussions inside the Cabinet, that is exactly what I've instructed the HEW Secretary to do: to get all the people that are interested--the insurance companies, the doctors, the older people, everybody that seems to have a real worthwhile opinion and conviction on this thing--get them in and work out what should be the responsibility of the individual and the city and the State and, finally, the Federal Government.
I want to point out at this time there is not a single State that has a program in this field. It seems to me that the problem does have enough of the local in its character that they should be just as interested as anybody else. Now, we are trying to develop a program that will show exactly where the Federal responsibility in this field should begin and where it should end.
Q. Frank Bourgholtzer, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, on this subject of committing your successor in office, are you considering a second and third summit conference; the second one, for example, immediately after the election, to which you would take your successor, and perhaps a third one next spring?
THE PRESIDENT. Why, I hadn't even thought of that. With all of my associates and friends in Europe, the subject is talked about in terms of we should have these things, oh, not at 4- or 5-year intervals, but fairly frequently. That is all that can be said now.
I would think this: after the election, no matter who is elected, I would think there would be a resurgence of all of the questions now placed about my ability to make, let's say, a 1-year moratorium; because I haven't got a year, you see. So the closer you get to next January, why, the more those questions would come up, and I would doubt whether it would be too useful. But if there were some emergency that came up that made it useful, why, of course I'd go.
Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Mr. President, as I understand it, it would take a year or two to build these inspection sites in the Soviet Union. Now, does that mean that the treaty would be signed and that there would be no inspection for a couple of years before the system would be operating?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think the statement, as we stated yesterday, made that perfectly clear--that when the treaty was established and confirmed, then there would be no test under the threshold and you certainly wouldn't have any above, would you?
Q. Mr. Reston: No, but then you would have, then, for a period of 2 years, that you would have an uninspected system over the entire range, would you not?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, you would have people over there, and I think that it would begin gradually to develop in efficiency. You have to do something if you are going to get a system established that is going to be mutually acceptable as to its accuracy and reliability; well, then, you have to make some concessions as to stopping this whole business until you're sure of that, that is what I feel. I mean this: you have to put into it every safeguard so that there cannot be dilatory tactics used just to push you off for 10 years. As we said in this suggestion, a 4- or 5-year moratorium is just excessive.
Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, the success of the offer that you and Prime Minister Macmillan put forward yesterday would seem to depend to a great extent on how serious and sincerely the Soviets would negotiate on this issue. Now, after months of deadlock on this problem, do you have any reason for believing that at this stage the Soviets are any more sincere in wanting such an agreement?
THE PRESIDENT. Again, I can't presume to describe in any accuracy what are the motives of somebody else.
Now, all the signs are that the Soviets do want a degree of disarmament, and they want to stop testing. That looks to me to be more or less proved.
But, the condition on which they want it, the conditions they want to establish for such an accomplishment, are things, of course, that are of their devising--which are, simply, common pronouncement; that's it, just a pronouncement by both parties. That is what they have always said.
They have come a long way since they said, "Now we are ready to establish these mutual systems." So the very fact that they have made this concession means that they want to negotiate further; no question in my mind.
Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: Could you give us your views, sir, on current serious race problems now confronting South Africa?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think that I wouldn't want to say anything more about that than the Secretary of State has already said.
Naturally, when we see things of this kind where people are killed and there is so much violence, we deplore it. But it is a very touchy thing where I think that there are probably a lot of people within that country of understanding, human understanding, and want to get a better condition brought about. I'd like to see them do it.
Q. Robert C. Pierpoint, CBS News: Mr. President, reports have been published that Vice President Nixon is planning a trip to Communist China. I'd like to ask you, first of all, have you heard anything about these plans; and secondly, what is your reaction to the basic idea?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, that must be the most speculative "think piece" I ever heard of in a long time. [Laughter] He has never said such a word to me in his whole life; and I'll tell you, there are just no such plans of any kind.
Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Two points on the problem of your successor, Mr. President: was it considered completely impracticable to have a Democrat along with Vice President Nixon at the Camp David briefings; and, second, what is your view on the suggestions that after the nominees are actually picked, they be given high level intelligence briefings?
THE PRESIDENT. The second part, to take that first--always we do that. They did it for me in 1952, and I did it in '56. As quick as the nominees are named, they begin to get it, and for this very practical reason: one of the two of them is the successor. He is the obvious successor, and so you have to keep him informed.
Mr. Nixon--after all, you people must remember, he is Vice President. He is not coming up just to negotiate or to talk, although as I said his opinion is always welcome. He is there because he might be the President of the United States tomorrow, or acting as such, anyway. Now, if that is so, you have got to keep him informed. How can he be ready to operate and act if he had to come out of a vacuum and go into all of the difficult details of such an office? So, it is entirely a different thing.
When the two nominees are set up, they will both be briefed steadily.
Q. Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, the chief Soviet delegate at the Geneva test talks has said that the number of on-site inspections which has been an obstacle in the negotiations, is a matter to be decided politically. Would you then expect that this figure would be subject to agreement at a summit conference?
THE PRESIDENT. That could well be, if you had had now satisfactory progress in a program, and I think that that would be something that might be discussed and maybe even decided there.
I would just like to say one more thing about these summit meetings. If the summit meetings are all plenary meetings, sessions, with the whole room full--as a matter of fact you have a room full of people about like this, you have a big square table and you have around it as many people as you can crowd, and behind that you have two or three rows of so-called advisers--[laughter]--everybody is talking at everybody else, instead of talking with them. And they are also, because so many of these statements are published, they are talking to their own constituents. In other words, they are doing as good a propaganda job as they can. We would do the same if we could think of anything we haven't said already. [Laughter]
The summit meeting, if it has got any value, is this: four men sitting around the table with their interpreters and, without anybody having any checks of any kind, by exploring each other's minds, "What do you really want to do? What could we do?"--that's the kind of thing that you would do at a summit meeting.
Now, if you get an idea, what do you do? You have to put it now, to all these experts, because they are knowledgeable and they know their stuff. You give it to them and say, "Now, come up with a little scheme or a plan. Can we put out something now that could possibly be a basis of a treaty or at least a basis for a temporary action of some kind?" That's the kind of thing that takes place.
So, when you begin to visualize this tremendous group in a summit meeting, that's only the part of it that ought to be for show; the rest of it, in my opinion, the working part of it, ought to be in small groups like I have just described.
Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: If we could get away from the details of this test ban negotiation for a minute, I would like to ask you this, sir: why is it that you are trying to get a treaty? Is it because you think this would freeze nuclear weapons and make the world safer, or keep other countries from going into the business? What is the driving force behind your determination?
THE PRESIDENT. For me--now I am speaking personally at this moment--the driving force behind me is the belief that we should try to stop the spreading of this, what you might say, the size of the club. There are already four nations into it, and it's an expensive business. And it could be finally more dangerous than ever, merely because of the spreading of this knowledge and this know-how, particularly with newer ways coming up of manufacturing all of this U-235 and so on.
So that is really the big thing. Because as of now, I assure you, the power that exists in the arsenals, certainly of our own and we know of Russia's, is such a tremendous thing that I don't think that testing will necessarily make destruction more likely, I mean, of your enemy or of yourself--I don't mean enemy; I mean of anyone, any nation, or this one.
But the perfection of the peaceful uses of this thing, the perfection of the weapons themselves, in using one pound of something where two pounds was necessary before, that's the kind of thing that goes on all the time.
If we continue to do that, others are going to test in the fields that we have already covered, you see. Finally there will be any number of nations that have it, and I think it ought to be stopped.
Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and eighty-third news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 1 to 11:33 o'clock on Wednesday morning, March 30, 1960. Attendance: 243.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/235636