Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

January 28, 1959

THE PRESIDENT. Good morning. Please sit down.

This noon, ladies and gentlemen, I am sending my message on labor to the Congress.

It has been prepared after exhaustive study of all the McClellan findings. The purpose is to cover all of the abuses and difficulties that were brought out by that committee, so as to improve the labor-management relationship, to protect every working man and woman in this country, so far as law can do it, and to protect the public.

So it will be a broadly based bill, because it is our conviction that this matter, if it is to be corrected, should be corrected at one time.

That is the proposal that I am making. I shall not talk this morning about the details of those recommendations because they are now going down at noon; but at a later time, why, of course, we can discuss them.

Any questions ?

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, how do you feel about the call at Des Moines and in substance last week by the Republican campaign chairman in Congress for you, yourself, to take a more decisive and a more active role in restoring that hibernating elephant you mentioned?

THE PRESIDENT. I believe that I have stayed right persistent in my support for what I believe to be moderate government in this country.

I believe that most Republicans understand this, know exactly what I mean, and support it.

It is, possibly, a difficult position to take as everybody who tries to take a middle-of-the-road position understands. You are subject to attack from both sides, and that is perfectly natural and proper, but you've got to take it from both sides. My own opinion is that anyone who doesn't understand what this administration has been standing for, after two platforms written by Republicans, and after six State of the Union Messages supported by budgetary and economic reports, must not have read as seriously as he should have.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press International: Mr. President, wide circulation is being given today to a report that Chief Justice Warren has communicated to friends his feeling that your stand on school desegregation is too indecisive. The Chief Justice is represented this morning as being pained by what was described as your failure to take forceful action

THE PRESIDENT. He is what?

Q. Mr. Smith: Your failure to take

THE PRESIDENT. What is his reaction?

Q. Mr. Smith: He is described this morning as being pained

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, oh!

Q. Mr. Smith: --at what this story called your failure to take forceful action to implement the desegregation decision of the Court. If the Chief Justice has made known his feelings in this matter, would you like to do the same thing?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, so far as I am concerned, here is some irresponsible reporting.

I have told you people a dozen times or certainly frequently, exactly what I feel about a President commenting publicly upon decisions of the Supreme Court.

Now, I have regarded, and I am sure that everyone knows this also, I have regarded the Chief Justice as my personal friend for years. I know of no personal rift of any kind, and therefore I would believe that there is something that doesn't meet the eye here; and if the thing which you speak of is felt by the Chief Justice, I should think, and I am quite sure, that he is capable of telling me himself and doesn't have to take it to the public print.

Q. Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, when Mr. Mikoyan was here, he made the point that he seemed to feel that there were divisions between the American people, or those he talked to, and Government policies in the cold war.

He also made this point when he got back to Moscow.

I wonder if you could tell us whether you have had any personal reflections from friends in private life who may have talked with Mr. Mikoyan, that the United States Government might make agreements with Russia if it had a less rigid position.

THE PRESIDENT. No, no, I didn't have any. What I did--I think I reported this to you once before, possibly not--I had reports from friends around the country that called me up, one of them in California, I recall, saying it was obvious there was an attempt on the part of Mr. Mikoyan to make this interpretation, that the people in the Government were particularly divided on certain points. It might be Berlin or some other question.

Now, because of these reports, in certain instances these friends made a special point of meeting with Mr. Mikoyan during the course of the evening and asserting their belief that the United States, in its firmness in refusing to retreat a single inch from its rights and from its obligations and responsibility, that all of us were one; it didn't make any difference whether it was in Government or civil life.

Now, I certainly tried to make that clear myself.

Q. William Knighton, Baltimore Sun: Mr. President, getting back to the Des Moines oratory again for a moment, have you given any serious consideration to the calling of another Mackinac conference in connection with the feelings of the leadership of the other people in the party?

THE PRESIDENT. For a long time--as a matter of fact, Mr. Knighton, starting back I think about November 6--I have been calling together people from the Republican Party and friends of the party to ask them to undertake very earnest studies of exactly what we should do to get on a better road in explaining what we are about, what we are doing.

Now, this is not confined to the professionals; this is trying to get educators, friends of mine from all walks of life cooperating with the groups that the Chairman, Mr. Alcorn, sets up, to see whether there is anything where we are just failing all along the line to put our story across. But thinking of a conference like Mackinac, I haven't anything like that at this moment. I do not rule it out if a group of responsible Republicans would want it done.

Q. Frank van der Linden, Nashville Banner: Sir, the Alaska statehood bill gives the new State of Alaska perpetual control over its local school system.

A constitutional amendment was introduced yesterday to give that same kind of local control over the schools to every State. Now, would you be in favor of Congress submitting such a constitutional amendment to the States?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you are opening a matter that I have not even heard about. I didn't know that there was any difference in the responsibility and authority of the new State of Alaska as compared to other States.

I certainly would not make a comment on such a serious thing as approving, or let us say favoring because I wouldn't have any authority to approve, favoring a constitutional amendment until I had studied and looked at it.

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President--

THE PRESIDENT. Oh yes. I believe that you wanted to be recognized. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. Spivack: Well, I made it.

I would like to ask you a question about your tactics in the fight against inflation.

Last--well, on February 7, 1957, the New York Times reported as follows: "President Eisenhower warned that the Government would have to impose price and wage controls unless business and labor used restraint to reinforce the Government's efforts to curb inflation."

Now, what I would like to know is why, or do you have any reason to feel that your repetition of this warning last week would be more effective now than it was then?

THE PRESIDENT. I say only this--of course, we don't have the whole context of the statement--certainly my meaning has been made clear time and time again. If we do not fight inflation effectively, eventually the people of this country are going to demand action that would be, in my opinion, antithetical to the whole concept of a true, free competitive enterprise. And when that happens, I think we have really gone quite a step backward; I hope that it never will happen.

If it becomes necessary, then it will be, as I say, a very sad day for America. But I keep warning to see whether I can have any influence whatsoever in keeping that condition from coming about.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, another question about the Des Moines Republican meeting.

A United States Senator, commenting on a message you had sent to the Republicans, said that the Republicans should stop copying the New Deal.

Do you feel that your administration has copied the New Deal?

THE PRESIDENT. So far as I know, I have copied nothing in this world except what I believe are the basic principles of Americanism, and then tried to apply those principles to the problems that now face us.

I still remind you that no one has ever stated, defined, the proper functions of government better than did Abraham Lincoln. You will recall he said: "The proper function of government is to do for people those things they cannot do at all, or not so well do individually." At the same time, he said: "And in everything else the government ought not to interfere."

I believe this is about as good a definition of the function of government as can possibly be made.

Different individuals in different times apply this kind of a truth, this generalization, to the problem today, and they come up with somewhat different answers. But I know this: this administration is dedicated to one thing, to take this kind of truth, this kind of principle, and apply it to the problems of today in the hope of seeing progress in America under a position of security in the world and with the best possible opportunity for developing a peaceful solution to international problems.

Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: Mr. President, what is your reaction to Premier Khrushchev's statement yesterday that Russia is now mass-producing these intercontinental ballistic missiles with pinpoint accuracy?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would say this: we seem very prone to give 100 percent credence to some statement of the Soviets if it happens to touch upon our own anxieties or beliefs or convictions, and then some other statement we dismiss completely and we say, "Why, that is just another repetition of the old bald-faced lie."

Now, I don't know exactly what Mr. Khrushchev has in mind. I do know this: our missile system is going forward as rapidly as possible under the guidance of the finest scientists that we can accumulate.

I believe that we are making, within the relatively short space of time we have had, remarkable progress. I think it is a matter for pride on the part of America, and not a constant--well, hangdog attitude of humiliation.

Now, I do admit we, in this particular field, when our faith was apparently given to the air-breathing missile rather than to the ballistic, we were slow in starting. But we have started; and from the earlier part of this administration, this progress has not only been on the basis of the most urgent priority, but it has been very remarkably successful.

Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: In 1952, sir, Senator Taft stated after a conference with you an agreement you had for a $60 billion budget within a 4-year period. This goal is no longer attainable. Is it because world conditions have worsened greatly?

THE PRESIDENT. Well I think, Mr. Lawrence, the best answer to that question is this:

First of all, of course, prices have gone up some--I would say about 8 percent since that period, in spite of all the Government's efforts to keep them down. And that means, in some ways, more than an 8 percent cost, because some of these costs when reflected in munitions seem to get in the order of, say, 20 percent increase. For example, I remember the last time that Secretary Wilson reported to me on outstanding contracts and bills; we had to appropriate $2 ½ billion more than had been calculated as the cost of those things.

The second thing was this: we were then in the midst of the Korean War, and no one knew what was going to be the cost of these great defense, military programs that have since become necessary.

Now, I don't think this is necessarily because of a worsening of the world situation; it is a realization of the need for a very large arsenal of complicated destructive weapons as long as we are to keep our deterrent power as strong and useful as we believe it must be.

Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, Mr. Mikoyan in reporting on his trip to the United States on Saturday said that Russia might be willing to extend for a few days or a few months its Berlin deadline if talks with the West were under way by deadline time.

Do you think that such talks with the Russians before that deadline would be useful?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that any talks that deal fruitfully with the differences between our different peoples, our different governments, are useful.

I want to point out that the United States has constantly desired to get the political questions with which we are faced in a broader context, to try to solve these political questions as a matter of principle--get some basic agreement; and then within that context to get all different technical and, you might say, mechanical self-enforcing types of agreements like protection, better assurance against surprise attack, a banning of testing of all kinds of the nuclear weapons. This is the kind of agreement that we need if you are going to have a real effective result, but under which progress will be realized only, in my opinion, if we have a better general understanding about the peace of Europe, the readiness of both sides to renounce force and subversion in our efforts to maintain our positions in the world and to help our friends. And as to both sides, I would like to see some kind of a program that we could agree upon and which would have, within it, certain self-enforcing arrangements. By this I mean mutual inspection so that it would inspire mutual confidence.

With such things I believe we could count on real progress and finally a lightening of the load that all of us now have to carry.

Q. Mary Philomene Von Herberg, Pacific Shipper: In your Budget Message you asked Congress to reconsider its action last year in authorizing the superliners to be built under direct Federal loans. You pointed out that such Federal loans would enable the shipping companies to borrow money at a lower rate of interest than the Government itself pays.

I wondered, if Congress does as you requested of them, if you would be disposed to immediately request an appropriation to pay the Government's share for building these large passenger liners. One of them would be used on the Pacific and one would be on the Atlantic, and if you asked for it right away, they would start work on them right away; otherwise they are kind of stymied.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there is no question that these two superliners were believed both by the shipping industry and by--I have forgotten all of the arguments now--certain sectors of the whole Defense Establishment to be necessary, or at least highly desirable in our shipping complement.

As of this moment, to answer your question, I cannot say now that if Congress did just so and so and so, that I would be prepared instantly. I would certainly, if Congress picked up my recommendation and enacted it, I would be right on the job to consider with people now what is the next move to make.

Q. Sarah McClendon, San Antonio Light: I want to know, sir, if you and Mrs. Eisenhower are going to Mexico within the next month, and if you will fly, and if you will go to Acapulco or Mexico City? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I can tell you one thing: Mrs. Eisenhower is not going to be there, because that month is rather well mortgaged for her.

Now, I want to point out, there is nothing definite about any meeting right now with the new President. I am anxious to perpetuate the custom that I started with President Ruiz Cortines, of having informal talks, friendly chats, and really a friendly and useful correspondence--a correspondence that was made more valuable by the fact that we were personal acquaintances and, I have always thought more than that, friends.

Now, just when that can be done, I am not sure. Nothing is definite. But I do say this, I would like to see him.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, at Des Moines one of the criticisms of your administration and of you personally is that you did not see enough of politicians and of legislators. Have you any actions to take to answer that criticism?

THE PRESIDENT. You know, it's an odd thing--these criticisms and how they get publicized and widespread.

Starting way back in 1953 I had every single Congressman and every single Senator there was to my house. I had to do it in relays; it took a long time. I had them in just to make their acquaintanceship. And from that time onward, there has never been a time when I have not insisted time and again to the leaders, indeed, of both parties, that I am available and that when they want to see me about anything where they think I am making a mistake or about to make one or, indeed, that I just should start some new action, I would like to hear about it.

There have been, over the years, a great many of these individuals that I have invited, more often on my initiative than theirs, because possibly they don't want to bother me too much. At the same time, I don't feel I should nag them.

But if ever anyone has made clear his readiness to meet anyone of either side--Governor, Congressman, politician outside of office, or anything else--I have been always available.

And I particularly like to, used to get the educators in through stag dinners, things of that kind. I haven't done so much of that in later years because, as all of you know, I have tried to keep a schedule that is pretty logical and I think reasonable. But I still--as far as I know, there is no one ever denied a right to come to my office if there is any reasonable position on which he makes the request.

Q. Gordon White, Salt Lake City Deseret News: Senator Watkins was one of your better supporters--

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

Q. Mr. White: and when he was defeated there were reports that there was some offering of a job for him, and I believe it has been 3 months now he has been back in Utah. Is it correct to infer that you have been unable to find something for Senator Watkins?

THE PRESIDENT. Well now, there is no question about my respect for Senator Watkins. And, I think any discussion between him and me about a governmental job is rather a confidential matter.

There are certain posts that I would think he would be admirably fitted, but I have established certain criteria for appointments and it happens here that as a matter of age, in the only position that I knew of at the moment, he would be disqualified on that basis.

But let no one think that I have any loss of respect for his character, his ability, and his friendship.

Q. Garnett D. Horner, Washington Star: Mr. President, are you considering a meeting with former President Truman in the reasonably near future?

THE PRESIDENT. Well the only thing I know is that in this--I guess it's a bipartisan--national commission that is arranging for a celebration of President Lincoln's 150th anniversary, I suppose everybody is being invited to this affair here in Washington. That's the only thing I know where everybody might be present, because it is a bipartisan affair.

Q. Robert C. Pierpoint, CBS News: It has been about 3 weeks, sir, since Fidel Castro was successful in overthrowing the Cuban Government. I wonder if you could give us some of your impressions of Castro himself, and also tell us how you feel about some of the events that have developed since then?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I don't want to go into that kind of a thing. But, I will tell you what I will do, I'll just say this: I am certain this Government and all the American people hope that his Government will be truly representative of the Cuban people, and that his Government will achieve the ability to reflect their views, their aspirations, and to encourage and help their progress.

Now, as far as to indulge in anything about his own personality--no.

Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: I believe you stated, sir, that Mr. Mikoyan's visit in this country and your meeting with him was generally a good thing.

Do you believe there was sufficient value there, sir, to warrant a personal and formal meeting with Premier Khrushchev, a meeting similar to that; and do you have any plans to send Vice President Nixon to Russia?

THE PRESIDENT. It seems to me I am getting a lot of double--and triple-barreled questions this morning. [Laughter]

There have been no plans made to send anyone to Russia at this moment. Certainly I would not disagree with anyone's plan, if they want to do it, and if our Government thinks they should do it. But so far it has not been completely studied.

Now, so far as Mr. Khrushchev's visit is concerned, you couldn't do this in the informal way that Mr. Mikoyan did. Mr. Mikoyan came, I believe it was said, as a guest of the Embassy, and he got his visa on that basis.

Well, you couldn't do that with the head of the government, and it would be something entirely different, so I think the situations are not comparable.

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Recently, Ambassador Lodge took strong exception to a remark made by the Soviet Ambassador to the United Nations when the latter called the United States a capitalistic country.

Mr. Lodge replied that the United States is no longer capitalistic, but is a country of economic humanism.

Last night at Fordham University, Vice President Nixon, along the same lines, applauded the way U.S. labor leaders handled Mr. Mikoyan during his visit here, in contrast with that of some businessman.

Would you comment, sir, on what seems to be a new way of presenting the American image to the world?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think this: I don't believe that either of those people is necessarily wrong, because I believe there is no such thing as pure democracy, there is no such thing as pure competitive free enterprise; but there is, of course, the nearest thing we have to what you might call a pure government--a pure dictatorship.

Now, the pure dictatorship, at least in the case of Russia, has had to absorb into itself certain incentives of a material kind that they certainly at one time never did contemplate.

So, I would not say that our country is necessarily described as anything except a government, as Lincoln said, by, of, and for the people. I believe it's a true definition, even though we are a republic, not a democracy; but I believe the Government of the United States, and certainly we pray it always will be so, is responsive to the will of the people. It doesn't make any attempt to make itself the power that rules and governs the lives, the ambitions, and aspirations of our people.

That is what I think America is.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and forty-eighth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:30 to 11:02 o'clock on Wednesday morning, January 28, 1959. In attendance: 219.

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/234179

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