Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

August 17, 1960

THE PRESIDENT. Good morning. Please sit down.

I had a few questions about the accomplishments of the Space Agency over the past week, and so I had a short memorandum prepared this morning that will be available at Mr. Hagerty's office if any of you want them. It lists the unusual accomplishments of the week. 1

Any questions?

1 See item 264.

Q. frank Eleazer, United Press International: Mr. President, Francis Powers, the U-2 pilot, pleaded guilty today to spying. Does this indicate to you in any way that he may have been brainwashed or do you have any other comments, sir, on the conduct of the trial so far?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, no, it doesn't show evidence that he has been brainwashed. The only thing I would like to comment on would be the past history of the case.

Under international usage--custom--any foreigner who is accused of a crime in any country has been accorded the right to see counsel of his own choosing and to see interested consuls or people of that kind of the other government. In this case, of course, Mr. Powers has been given no such privilege and we have asked that he should have it.

Now, in the actual conduct of the trial, as it goes on, I would have no comment because it certainly wouldn't be helpful to Mr. Powers' case for anyone in my position to be commenting on the conduct of a trial in that other country.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, a number of us talked to Mr. Dirksen and Mr. Halleck after they conferred with you yesterday, and they said that generally they don't look for much from this post-Convention session of Congress. Some of us got the impression that Republican strategy will be to label this a "do-little" Congress. Is that he way you see it, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, that is the first time that I have heard that word "do-little" Congress and I didn't--I suppose they were speaking as legislators, and possibly from past experience. You know, strangely enough, someone called my attention to the fact that the Congress passed in 2 weeks last year 436 bills. And now we have a program that was not only presented last January for consideration during these past some 7 or 8 months, but it has been repeated to the Congress in messages of various kinds during the time. This is not a new program. It is one that was presented some months back. And I don't see any reason why there shouldn't be some action.

Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: Mr. President, in the closing months of any administration, the President usually has the problem of persuading people not to leave their posts and go back to their private businesses. I wonder if you are having that problem already, or anticipate having it soon?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I haven't in any--there certainly has been no volume of it. I remember one of my staff was offered a different position, and he accepted, with my blessing. But I have always done that, and I have seen no great influx of letters of resignation at the moment.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: Mr. President, since the Democrats do not seem disposed to enact any, or much, of your 21-point program, are you considering at all the possibility that you might call Congress back into session before the elections, or do you prefer to leave the issue to the voters in November?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Roberts, I think it would be a very unwise thing to call a special session of Congress under the atmosphere in which we are now living, unless actual emergency demands it. If Congress doesn't want to act now, what would be the point in bringing them back?

If we are thinking of the public interest and not just of political maneuvering, why, there can be done what needs to be done. Then if the voters are dissatisfied with either side, why, they can make their views known.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, this is a question about your project for an emergency fund for the Congo and Africa, which the Senate foreign Relations Committee approved yesterday. Do you think that a case can be made, particularly at this juncture, for use of some of those funds through the United Nations, or does the administration think it would be wiser and easier to spend the money independently?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I wouldn't want to comment in such detailed fashion about this question that I would appear to set up a new policy on the spur of the moment. Actually, I believe that we must depend on the United Nations to take the leadership in meeting these situations as they arise. Actually, there haven't been too many of them, you know, when you stop to think that, I believe, with the six nations now soon to come into existence we have got something like 34 or 35 coming into existence since World War II. And in many--most cases--these transitions have been accomplished not only peacefully but in such ways that a certain degree of stability has been achieved almost at once. Here we have had the unfortunate spectacle of disorder and disruption of governmental processes occurring. The United Nations ought to take the lead, and we support it. Therefore, if some of the funds that we have to give to this place go through them, it will be, I think, a proper way to do it.

Q. Mr. Morgan: How do you envision, sir, the use of those funds in other ways? The funds that would not go through the United Nations-how do you expect them to be applied?

THE PRESIDENT. You will recall, I think it says not merely the Congo, but in the other areas of Africa. So you couldn't always do it through the United Nations, because the United Nations probably wouldn't have taken any cognizance of the need expressed to us by that nation.

I would think each one would have to be decided on its merits as it came up. But I think if you will read Mr. Dillon's statement in detail, the one he made before the Committee the other day, it was very explanatory.

Q. Felix Belair, New York Times: Mr. President, you spoke a moment ago of the U.N. taking the lead in Africa with our support. What will you do, if you can say, sir--what do we do when U.N. troops are arrested over there and also do you have any correspondence on this?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, this last incident--you mean when Lumumba arrested some of them and then released them? Well, you have got conditions that are deplorable, and there seem to be many actions taken impulsively. I still say this: the United Nations must shoulder its responsibilities in such matters, and we must support them. And I think that the vast bulk of the free nations will feel exactly as we do about this. Now, this doesn't mean that things are always going to be easy, and we are not going to have such incidents as occurred the other day--or yesterday, I guess it was. But I think that on the whole, the record of the United Nations gives a great deal of promise that it can continue to handle matters like this expeditiously.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. President, regardless of whether Congress did or didn't do what it should since January, do you think it is possible for them now to deal with all of your more than a score of points when the time is so short, or do you think that they should go out and explain their future policies and platforms to the voters between now and November?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, we have a Congress of the United States, set up in the Constitution, to pass the laws that are seemingly needed for the United States. And under that system we have developed the two-party system. We have now in each House of Congress a two-thirds majority. And as a matter of fact, from my viewpoint at least, such of this legislation as is constructive, and I believe those that I have recommended are supported by the Republican group, I see no reason why you couldn't get a lot of action, particularly when, as I pointed out, there were 436 bills passed in 2 weeks last year.

Q. Robert C. Pierpoint, CBS News: Mr. President, I wonder if you have some kind of a priority among these 21 proposals that you could list for us.

THE PRESIDENT. No, no. Actually, after having put these things before the Congress, the Congress will have to decide what it is going to do and what it is not going to do.

Q. Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News: Suggestions were made in the Senate this week that perhaps it would be wise to devise a program, a multibillion-dollar program, for Latin American aid, something on the concept of the Marshall plan. Can you tell us how you would feel about such a program?

THE PRESIDENT. The Marshall plan was developed for a specific purpose. This specific purpose was the restoration of a damaged and, in some cases, destroyed industrial fabric in Western Europe--mostly in Western Europe. Now, this was--this had, in other words, a foreseeable terminating date because it had a specific objective.

When you go into the problem of helping people raising living standards, this has no foreseeable end at the moment; it is a thing that has to be studied year by year, adapted, changed to meet changing conditions, and this is an entirely different thing. I don't believe any man is wise enough today to foresee what will be the ultimate need and set up the program and the money to meet it. I think that this is the kind of thing where a family of nations, like a family of individuals, have to understand they live together; and in living together, new needs come up. And if they are met cooperatively by everybody putting his brains and his resources into it, we will get somewhere. But I don't believe that any nation could at this moment, for all the other 20, say, "We will put x billion dollars, and here is a program, and if you do this you will be all right." I don't believe that for a minute.

Q. Lambert Brose, Lutheran Layman: Mr. President, there has been some criticism in the press of the hopeful signs you gave of our economy at last week's news conference. And Newsweek magazine has taken some of the Government statistics you quoted and shows that, according to Newsweek, that they are not so favorable. May I quote several of them to you?

THE PRESIDENT. It's all right with me. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. Brose: You said last week: "Retail sales continue to go up at a record," and Newsweek says, "Total retail sales dropped during July to 18.3 billion, lowest level in 3 months. It is no higher than it was a year ago, despite rising population and rising prices."

And then you said last week: "Right now, they are building houses at a rate of 1.3 million, which is, I think with one exception, as high as we have ever been." Newsweek says: "Home builders are in fact having their worst year, with one exception, since 1954."

And one more--[laughter]--I just want to mention. You stated: "Employment is almost 69 million, another record." Newsweek says: "Unemployment, which the President didn't mention, is over 4 million, a high 5.4 percent of the labor force."

My question is: do you think--[laughter]--the public may have received a slightly more favorable outlook of the economy at last week's press conference than really is justified?

THE PRESIDENT. Allowing for the possibility that any man can always misspeak himself a little bit, I don't admit that I made any error. But I will tell you: you are talking now about a quarrel between Newsweek and the Council of Economic Advisers, and I ask you to go and meet them, and see what they have to say about it. [Laughter]

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post: Mr. President, last week you were asked about your role in the campaign. As I remember it, you said that you would do whatever you could to help the Nixon-Lodge ticket, but you didn't think it would be wise to go out on the hustings. And since then, it has been announced that you are going to make a couple of nonpolitical speeches. What is your reasoning there, Mr. President, that nonpolitical speeches, so called, would be more helpful to the Nixon-Lodge ticket? I was a little puzzled.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, certainly I wouldn't want to hurt that ticket, because I think it is fine. But let's get this thing straight.

There becomes a division of responsibility with respect to the future-you might say the political future of this country--that must be obvious to everybody. I necessarily remain as President of the United States, and I am responsible for every decision taken up, as I say, until January 20, on the actions of this Government.

Now, there is a political campaign up, when by Constitution I am no longer included. I am just a spectator in a way. Therefore, the direction of the political campaign as such--not the Government, but the political campaign--falls into other hands.

Now, they come to me, because after all we have been working together a long time, and they do realize that what I do will have some definite influence on that election. Then they will tell me what they want done.

What I am saying is that I have already accepted, oh, months back, some engagements--like I am going up to speak for my old friend, Cardinal Spellman, in the Catholic Church. I guess we have announced this, haven't we?

Mr. Hagerty: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. And in Philadelphia, and places like that. Now, what I would do otherwise, I know that there is one--there is one performance coming in where I am going to be part of the political picture, and make a political speech. I don't know how many. But they will give me their ideas, and if I agree, why, that is exactly what I will do, because I am going to do whatever I can to elect Mr. Nixon and Mr. Lodge; you can bet on that.

Q. David Kraslow, Knight Newspapers: Mr. President, this administration has prided itself on being budget conscious, yet it is sponsoring a medical care program for the aged that will make a sizable dent in the general Treasury, while the Democratic leadership, which has been criticized in the past on spending issues, is sponsoring a so-called self-funding plan, pay as you go, as they put it. Will you comment on that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I say this. I am for a plan that will be truly helpful to the aged, particularly against illnesses which become so expensive, but one that is freely accepted by the individual. I am against compulsory medicine, and that is exactly what I am against, and I don't care if that does cost the Treasury a little bit more money there. But after all, the price of freedom is not always measured just in dollars.

Q. Sarah McClendon, Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader: Mr. President, I presume from the reappointments in the State Department that you have taken some look recently at the background and actions of--both actions and policy in the State Department on the things that brought about the Communist encroachment in Cuba. Now, I wonder if from your look at that, if you have found mistakes that were made, and if you would tell us who were making the mistakes?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you must be asking for some kind of white paper--[laughter]--that will tell everything that we have ever done in Cuba. I have not heard of any circumstances that would justify the question you have just asked. And I know of no blunder which I can attach blame to anyone for. Therefore--and I have had these reports on Cuba every day, I think, for the last month, either by telephone or personally--I don't know of any reason for apologizing for what we have done in the past.

Q. Mrs. McClendon: Well, sir, may I--

THE PRESIDENT. No, thank you.

Q. E. W. Kenworthy, New York Times: A further question, sir, on aid to Latin America. While the situations confronting the Marshall plan countries and Latin America are quite different, would it be helpful if the Latin American countries would set up an equivalent organization to the--

THE PRESIDENT. Would set up a what?

Q. Mr. Kenworthy:--an equivalent organization to the OEEC, which the Marshall plan countries have, to help plan the aid they want?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I wouldn't be too quick to give a specific answer on this. I think it would be good. And I am speaking personally, and not having discussed this particular point with others--very competent people in this field. I am sure of this: that the OAS must provide a mechanism where this whole development is going to be on a cooperative basis, and where there is the actual decision made on a group basis, because if it is made unilaterally, and we pretend to be the great experts on Latin America, and everything that we say is to be done and nothing else, then it will not work. It has got to be a very cooperative effort, and if it is an organization something as we developed in the OEEC, why, fine.

Q. Paul Martin, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, Marion Folsom said the other day that, on this health bill, Congress should not act this year in a political atmosphere. He suggested that we appoint a study commission, composed of representatives of the insurance industry, medical profession, employers, labor, and so on, with instructions to report next year, and let the next administration and the next Congress, with the basis of facts, determine what they should do. What do you think about that idea?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, first of all, I have great admiration for Marion Folsom. Secondly, I very thoroughly believe in a thorough analysis of all the facts that we can find in such thing--in such affairs, in such vast pro- grams, before we take action.

Now, the fact is that there has been an awful lot of study. We have conferred with the American Medical Association, with the insurance companies, and everybody that seemed to have an authoritative voice in this matter.

And I am not adverse to the studies. I doubt that you ever get a really favorable year to do anything as difficult. People say it is either election year or it is not an election year. Either one seems to be a good excuse for not doing anything. But the fact is that if such studies would give us a better and clearer idea, why, of course, I would have no objections. But I do believe that something ought to be done now, because these people are truly in need for this kind of support and help.

Q. Spencer Davis, Associated Press: Would you say, sir, how the situation in Laos looks to you now, and if you contemplate any need to pull out American aid and military missions in that country?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Laos is a very confused situation. Of course, the new prime minister is getting ready to present his newly established government to the Assembly, and that is about the only development since last week. And I can say only this: that both in Laos and here in Washington we are following the situation just as earnestly as we can, and certainly to take any kind of action that seems to be indicated.

Q. John V. Homer, Washington Star: Mr. President, now that the American foreign ministers are in session, what do you think that they should do, or what would you like to see them do., about Cuba?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think that they are brought together there to study everything that is of interest, and particularly that seems to disturb the public opinion in all the Americas, from here on southward. Both by the report made to the foreign--to the Council--yesterday, both Trujillo, the Dominican problem, and the Cuban problem are cited as two of the items which they must study, and decide among themselves what to do. And further than that, I would not want to comment, because I am quite clear in my mind that these matters are for all the states of the OAS. It is not merely because we have had some specific problems and difficulties in these areas. This does not make it our problem alone. If we can't solve it on a cooperative and general basis, then indeed it would look quite bad.

Q. Lillian Levy, Science Service: Mr. President, there have been reports, sir, that there is some feeling among our allies that an agreement on the cessation of nuclear tests cannot be achieved between East and West before the end of your administration. What is your appraisal of the possibility of an agreement between now and January?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course the history of the whole thing doesn't seem too good, for the simple reason that we have been working so hard on this thing up to now. And I would say this: nothing could gratify me more than to achieve, between the East and West, some agreement that would bring a bit more of peace of mind to all our people, and would do so by making certain that that agreement could be policed on both sides-that is, inspected and kept everybody up to snuff.

Q. Frank van der Linden, Nashville Banner: Mr. President, the polls are now beginning to show that Vice President Nixon is pulling ahead of Mr. Kennedy in the presidential race, and his press secretary says he now has closed the gap, and they are running neck to neck. I wonder, sir, if you have any advice to Mr. Nixon's friends and the Republicans not to get a little overconfident as was done in 1948, and maybe keep working.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I wasn't here in '48. But I would say this: in any competitive enterprise, whether it is war or politics or anything else, no one should be pessimistic or discouraged by some straw in the wind, and certainly he should not be complacent with another straw that seems to point favorably in his direction. I am quite sure that Mr. Nixon is correct when he says he is starting a fight as rapidly as he can, and he is going to wage it right down to the last minute of the campaign, because I think he is too old a campaigner to take anything for granted.

Q. John M. Hightower, Associated Press: I would like to raise the question of the Powers case again, sir. The major Soviet propaganda line in connection with this case is that the United States itself is on trial. I wondered whether you had occasion to give this matter some thought, and what your reaction is to this line.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't think it is, whatsoever. When we admitted publicly that the U-2 belonged to us and that it was on a reconnaissance mission, we were doing something that in a modern world was the only way we could find out, to get any information, about a closed society, and a society that is constantly threatening us by their strength, boasting about what they could do to the world, and all the rest of it.

Now, this does not put the United States on trial whatsoever. If they want to say that they are putting me on trial, that is their privilege. But to put the United States on trial in this way is just another piece of their propaganda that distorts fact into their own line of charge and allegation.

Q. Benjamin R. Cole, Indianapolis Star: Mr. President, in connection with that, if the Soviets put the President of the United States on trial, how, then, can they put an American citizen on trial for carrying out a mission under the command of his Commander in Chief?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, they can't put him on trial, because they can't take jurisdiction in the sense that you are speaking. What they are trying-they are trying to say that they are condemning the United States before world opinion. Well, I think they have no case whatsoever. The number of spies that we have caught, and cases of bribery and subversion, which have been proved all over the world, gives their--just denies any validity whatsoever to this kind of a charge on their part.

Jack Ball, Associated Press: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and eighty-ninth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:30 to 10:59 o'clock on Wednesday morning, August 17, 1960. In attendance: 215.

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/235205

Filed Under



Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives