Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

February 10, 1959

THE PRESIDENT. I should like to speak for a moment about Secretary Dulles.

As you know, he has applied for a leave of absence from his duties for some weeks to undergo a real physical check-up and for repair of a hernia.

I can't tell you how disappointed I am to know that he has had to go in the hospital, but how pleased I am that he has finally recognized that he just must do this. I have long urged him to do it.

But, because of the fact that I believe he is the most valuable man in foreign affairs that I have ever known, I believe that every clear-thinking man in the United States--I didn't mean to use "man" specifically; man and woman--any clear-thinking man or woman in the United States would pray for his early recovery and his complete restoration to vigor and health so he can get back on the job. America needs him and I think each one of us needs him.

I believe his performance over 6 years has been remarkable, a brilliant one, and I think it's almost a miracle that he hasn't had to go for a longer period of rest and healing than he is now undergoing.

The next thing I wanted to mention was this disaster in St. Louis. I believe the reports so far showed about 17 killed and about 300 people hurt as a result of this tornado. Mr. Hoegh has got his OCDM man on the job in St. Louis. He's got disaster experts on the way there. All the departments of Government have been alerted to giving every possible assistance to the mayor and to the local authorities. As of the moment, at least, the hospitals are capable of taking the injured in and caring for them, and there seems to be no danger that the matter cannot be handled locally and with such support as can be given, both moneywise and facilitywise, from the Federal Government, and handled as well as such sad things can be handled. At least they are on the job, every one of them.

That's all.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, could you size up the picture regarding Berlin from the standpoint of the Western allies, in the light of Mr. Dulles' latest report to you yesterday?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would think, Mr. Arrowsmith, there is very little to add to his statement. As he came back, he made the statement at the airport, and he told that he detected a greater unified purpose among the Western allies, their firmness in their purpose of enforcing their rights and not accepting the theory that the Soviets could abandon their agreed responsibilities and transfer them to officials or to the GDR.

Now I think that the points he made speak for themselves, and I don't think there is much to add to it.

Q. John Hightower, Associated Press: Mr. President, do you think that Mr. Dulles' illness would in any way delay the preparation for possible negotiations with the Soviet Union, or delay the negotiations themselves?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, not so far as I know. Of course the doctors don't make any exact predictions as to when a satisfactory return to his health will be achieved. But there has been suggested, for example, a foreign ministers meeting between the Soviets and some of the Western allies. That would take some preparation. There has been no agreement.

I believe the Russians themselves are more concerned, Mr. Khrushchev is concerned, in a head of government meeting, as he calls an informal and without an agenda type. Well, that would take still a great deal of preparation.

Actually, I think that Mr. Dulles is very hopeful that after he has the operation over, that he will get more time to do a little thinking at leisure about some of our European problems than he does normally here, badgered as he is by all kinds of requests for statements and speeches and going abroad and all the chores of the day. I think he is hopeful that he is going to get to think more about it, and I would really believe there would be no delay whatsoever in this kind of negotiation.

Q. J. F. Ter Horst, Detroit News: Mr. President, there has been a growing impression, or at least reports around the country, that in the course of the pursuit of normal military intelligence the U.S. planes sometimes play fox and hounds along the Turkish border in order to cause Soviet interceptors to scramble, and that therefore, or thereby, we can gain some knowledge of their preparedness and their procedures.

Was the plane that was shot down, our plane that was shot down last September, on such a mission?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will answer the first part of it very specifically: the orders are very strict on this matter. Now occasionally there are errors in navigation and sometimes there are storms and things of that kind; once in a while we believe there are false radio signals that will take a plane out of course. But any thought of playing fox and hounds, as you call it, to cause scrambling is contrary to orders.

Actually, I have forgotten now the limit, but I established it personally, sometime back a couple of years ago, and I am sure that this happening is accidental.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Can you tall us what progress is being made on that new committee you mentioned in your state of the Union address--

THE PRESIDENT. You mean

Q. Mr. Brandt: --on social trends. It's getting mixed up with Mr. Nixon's committee, I think.

THE PRESIDENT. No, it is not to be mixed up. It is sharply differentiated.

Actually, what I'm doing is to find the man who is capable of heading such a committee and who has the time to do it. I have had three or four in mind, and one is coming to see me in a day or so. I am pushing as hard as I can; but again, like it was in the assembly of the Civil Rights Commission, these things are not easy, to get exactly the right personnel you want.

Q. Harold R. Levy, Newsday: There are reports that the State Department's recommendation that Mr. Labouisse be appointed the Director of the ICA were, in effect, vetoed by Mr. Alcorn on political grounds.

Would you tell us, sir, what role the national committee plays in the selection of appointees?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'll tell you one thing: no one has got a right to veto or attempt to veto any selection I may make for appointment to any office.

Now, in every vacancy that occurs, we try to find a man that can fill it adequately, and with credit to himself, as well as to benefit the Government.

It is undoubtedly true, and everybody knows, that political considerations come in; but they are, so far as I'm concerned and have always been, secondary in the making of appointments to the good of the Government. The idea that someone can veto my selections, well, I would think they would be very bold, more bold than I'd think if they'd try it.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, from the school aid legislation that you sent up to the Hill yesterday, some people have concluded that you have decided that it's more dangerous to unbalance the budget now than to run the risk of more inadequately educated citizens later.

Could you discuss this dilemma with us in the context of determination between difficult fiscal values and human values?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am not so sure that you can differentiate. The human values in America are not going to be promoted unless we are sane and sensible in our fiscal policies. I know of nothing that could injure the great population--174 million people--we have got than to allow budgetary process to get out of control, fiscal measures going loosely, in such way that just inflation would absolutely be inevitable.

Of course we recognize the national need for better education, but also I am firmly committed to the idea that the primary and basic responsibility in these matters rests with the communities and with the States. The only thing that I think the Federal Government should do is to try to inspire or help them on the basis of need, and where need can be proved. Then I think the national benefit to be obtained out of having an educated citizenry overrides a mere matter of some dollars, particularly if you are trying to do it correctly, not by supporting education all over our country but to inspire and where necessary assist the localities to do their job.

Q. Frank Holeman, New York Daily News: Sir, a group of private doctors associated in humanitarian work is trying to get a Navy hospital ship out of the mothballs on the west coast for a mercy mission into Southeast Asia.

Sir, how would you feel about such a project?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think the project--I have read about it in all its details in a number of reports--I think it's a wonderful thing to do. I don't know of any better way in which you could bring to many thousands of people, many millions, the concern of the United States in humanitarian things.

Now, the only thing that I know is still in question is whether or not this matter has yet been financed by these private interests in the way that they think it should be and the way they believe they can. Once that assurance is there, the Navy will have the ship ready for them, I assure you.

Q. Robert C. Pierpoint, CBS News: From reports that we get, air, Premier Khrushchev seems rather anxious to have you visit the Soviet Union. I was wondering, first of all if you think that might be a useful trip for you at this present time, or would you prefer to have him visit the United States, perhaps?

THE PRESIDENT. You say that it appears that he would like for me to come there.

Did you read the speech in which he suggested that I might come, and what he had to say, particularly about the United States as a whole, its leaders, and some of the language he used to describe us as a nation-and others, even more than myself? 1

1Earlier, on February 6, the Press Secretary to the President released the following statement at Thomasville, Ga.:

Premier Khrushchev's invitation to President Eisenhower to visit the Soviet Union occurred in a lengthy speech which contained very hostile references to United States' leaders. It seems strange that Premier Khrushchev, if he really welcomes a visit by the President, would extend it in such circumstances.

The President has no present plans to make such a visit--in fact he hasn't received any invitation, except through the reports of an off-hand invitation extended in a political speech.

Ever since he has been in office, President Eisenhower has always made it clear that he was willing to go anywhere in the world if, by so doing, such a visit would serve the cause of peace. Should future developments suggest that a visit to the Soviet Union-or anywhere else--would serve to advance this cause, then it certainly would be considered.

I would think that certainly I would have to wait for some more official type of, and more, let us say, persuasive kind of invitation than that.

Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: The Congress, in passing legislation or proposing it, especially in the housing and airport fields, have put in for more funds than you have allocated in your budget. There is much speculation on the Hill, sir, that you may make up this deficit by cutting your foreign aid funds. Would you comment on that possibility, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would say this: if there was any intention of increasing expenditures in this area at the expense of mutual security, then I'd say I could think of no policy that was more destructive of America's vast interests in the world than that one.

If there is any item that I know of that is calculated to give to each of us as a citizen of America the greatest possible return, it will be that mutual security appropriation. And the idea that this kind of proposition is to be advanced because of the known reluctance of America to indulge in a program that has been classified as giveaway, if that is the idea on which we are working, well, then I say that statesmanship is beginning to get of a very low order.

Q. Carleton Kent, Chicago Sun-Times: Mr. President, in 1956 an expression of interest by you swung the Republican convention to San Francisco.

The Republican National Committee is in the process of choosing the 1960 site now. Do you have any favorites this time? THE PRESIDENT. As a matter of fact, I start off questioning your premise, Mr. Kent, because I may have expressed that preference, I don't recall; but I'd think my reaction would have been: "That's an awful long trip to make out to the convention."

Certainly, so far as the next convention is concerned, the matter is completely within the hands of the National Committee. So far as I am concerned, I would not think it either desirable or useful to express any preference myself.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. President, the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee complains that some of our more recent top ambassadorial appointments have not been first rate. It is often complained by the State Department that Congress does not allow sufficient pay and allowances so that any but wealthy men can afford to take the top jobs. What have you found in relation to that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mrs. Craig, it is perfectly clear that--I don't know whether they are the top jobs, but the more expensive jobs cannot possibly be taken by anyone except individuals of considerable wealth.

I think most of us here have visited some of those embassies, and you see the staffs of assistants and servants, some hired locally but others carried over; they couldn't possibly be paid out of the allowances that the Government now permits.

However, I do say there are other posts in this world that I think are just as important, and they are filled by career people, merely because they are not so expensive. There are certain places that we have just made up our minds that no one but a career person can ever go there, and we hope that they won't get so expensive that they can't do it.

I really believe that we should increase our percentages of career people just so far as it can possibly be done.

Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: Mr. President, the Labor Department is reporting this morning that unemployment is up around five million. I wonder if you feel that this is a level that we have to live with for a while, or whether there is a chance for marked improvement in the spring months?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, first of all it's not above five million, it's 300,000 below five million.

Secondly, I don't for one minute accept that as a satisfactory level of unemployment.

Now, in the month of January, unemployment went up 616,000 which is really less than seasonal factors would normally compel. In addition, though, there were 200,000 more employed this month of January, and I am sure that the ratio of the unemployed to the labor force went down, even in January, about 1/10 of a point, from 6. 1 to 6. So, I believe thoroughly that we are going to have a pickup as the year goes on. There are certainly areas in which it is much more slow than we should like, any of us would like, but this is sort of characteristic of recoveries. They come, they get spotty, and here and there things look fine; and in others, they are not so good. But I say this, never with any level of that kind could you say that you should be happy with it or content with it.

Q. Frank van der Linden, Nashville Banner: Sir, you had a meeting this morning with Senator Cooper from Kentucky, and that gives rise to two questions. The first is, have you managed to persuade Dr. Welch of the University of Kentucky to stay on the TVA Board; and the second one is, have you decided who will get the vacancy on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals?

THE PRESIDENT. Well--[laughter]--my answer to the second one is a very simple one: that when I have named that man it goes to the Senate before I make any public announcement. So that will come out just as quickly as it goes to the Senate.

Now the other one is this: I don't know whether we can persuade Dr. Welch to stay longer, but I would say this: I would very much hope that he would; and if I knew what considerations could influence him, I would use them.

But actually, however, I believe he has to go back soon to the university or he has lost a very favorable position in his retirement opportunities. I think it would be a very serious question for him.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post: Mr. President, some people are worried because they say Russia's economy is growing much faster than ours.

Now you have taken your stand against what you regard as excessive Federal spending in order to ward off inflation.

What do you think, sir, of the argument that we ought to switch the emphasis and step up Federal spending and so--stimulate the growth of our economy?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, people apply this in many ways to all sorts of programs.

Right now, our GNP is about $453 billion, that's its rate. Procurement and services we get from the Government are about $54 billion; this is something on the order of 12 percent of that GNP; certainly it is not the decisive part. Therefore the expansion of your spending policies and the deleterious effects compared to the advantages that you get by $2 or $3 billion more expenditures in a 453 billion-dollar GNP seem to me to be completely overbalanced in favor of frugality and thrift and keeping your dollar sound.

I can't emphasize too often that millions and millions of people are living today in the security that their pensions offer them for their old age. If those pensions are going down in value each year by so much amount--as a matter of fact, from nineteen hundred and, I think, it was forty, I have forgotten the exact year, but at any rate in recent years our dollar has lost half its value--if that continues, that kind of thing, it is going to be disastrous for our kind of economy and for the welfare of our people. The expansion of your economy is not going to come out of that kind of spending. The expansion is going to come from the incentives that we give to our people for working hard, using their brains and keeping what they can earn as much as possible, so they spend their money themselves. That's the kind of economy we have, and not one where we can take off 2 or 3 billion and put it in and make it really a healthier affair. I just don't believe that the benefit, if any, to be gotten from such an expending program, compared to the bad effects of deficit spending today, would have any weight with us at all.

Q. Andrew F. Tully, Jr., Scripps-Howard: Sir, people are always speculating about your state of health. Could you tell us in any detail, sir, how you are feeling these days?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't have much time to think about it. But I think I'm in good shape; the doctors say so, and I don't know who else should worry so much about it--[laughter]--as the doctors and myself.

Q. William Knighton, Baltimore Sun: Mr. President, you have spoken out against the third term amendment. Had there been no third term amendment, would you now be considering in your mind running for a third term? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. First of all, I don't believe I ever spoke out against it. I said this--since I have never made a deep study of this thing, because what was the use--from my viewpoint, I said I thought on balance it was an unwise amendment.

However, there were so many people whose fears are very real that somebody who would get hold of the kind of military force we now have, get hold of it and use it as an instrument of establishment of centralized or dictatorship form of government, I would think that I could argue pretty well on either side of this one.

Let me point this out: our whole history, from the beginning, from 1787 until 1953, has been one of almost defenselessness in military forces. You remember--I realize I cover so many years now in a military career, but it was not too many years ago when the whole strength of the Army, including the Air Force, was 118,750. We would go down to the Congress, and I have sat in front, helping my bosses with the data, we'd ask for $50,000 more for something we thought was just terrific; and it would be cut off.

Now, even after World War II, we found this same trend had stared in. And it started not as just a matter of congressional economy or of the Executive's economy, it's what America felt. We hoped that the United Nations were going to solve our problems. So this political policy that you ask about, I think has been sort of a concomitant with our military policy, because everybody knew there wasn't enough military, really, to go into control of the country.

Now, this is no longer true, and it might alter thinking.

The answer to your last question is "no."

Q. John R. Gibson, Wall Street Journal: In the past, in talking about inflation, you have said that you felt that if it got bad enough the people of the country will probably demand some sort of economic control. Have you or your advisers seen any hint yet that this sort of sentiment is building up in any fashion now?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it's quite clear over some months now that prices have been remarkably stable. Actually we had this one period here, following '55, that we ran up about 6 percent. But over the past 6 years it's been stable, very stable compared to what much of our history is; and in the last 10 months, or something of that kind, prices have shown a very, very great stability.

Now this therefore tends, I think, to influence us to avoid looking ahead as far as we should. I believe as we look ahead there are many factors that demand that we use every bit of influence, of every kind of leadership there is available in the press, in different organizations, business and labor organizations, and in Government to keep this possibility off our immediate future. We must keep it back.

I am sure that the whole population would, if this thing got too bad, demand some kind of controls; this I would deplore with everything I have.

Q. Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News: In view of Mr. Dulles' leave, do you plan to devote more of your own time and energy to the conduct of foreign affairs?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, if I do, something else is going to suffer because I don't know of anything that I give as much time to, every week and every day, as I do to foreign affairs. Actually, I don't know of any Cabinet officer that I give half the time to that I do to Secretary Dulles; and if I go into any more personal conduct of the thing, then I am going to have to neglect a few other departments, that's sure.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and fiftieth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:31 to 10:59 o'clock on Tuesday morning, February 10, 1959. In attendance: 217.

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/234623

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