Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

February 18, 1959

THE PRESIDENT. Please sit down.

I am quite sure I voice the sentiments of the United States in expressing satisfaction over the escape of Prime Minister Menderes from the terrible accident in the plane, and also expressing sympathy for the families of those who were lost. 1

1 The President referred to an airplane crash near London, England.

This afternoon I shall start on a short call to Mexico to meet President Lopez Mateos.

There is no agenda for the meeting. It would be quite natural to expect that we would .be talking about a number of things of common interest, but the basic purpose is to pay my respects to the President of a great neighboring republic.

You all know that I have tried to make a special effort to keep in touch with our Canadian and Mexican friends, and I expect to continue to do that. So the trip will be very short; and from what I hear about the climate of Acapulco, I am quite sure it will be pleasant, and it will certainly be interesting to meet him.

I have no other announcements.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press International: Mr. President, in recent days there have been at least two reports concerning Secretary Dulles; one, that he tried to resign and you refused to consider it, and then there have been other published reports, apparently emanating from Capitol Hill, that you have been sounding out certain Republicans on what you might do in event that it became necessary to select a successor to Mr. Dulles.

Now, in the light, against the background of these two reports, I wonder if you could discuss with us the Secretary's condition and how you view his future.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I want to start off with a little reminiscing.

I once told General Marshall that there was a certain corps commander in the United States that I wanted to get over into Europe right away; I needed him and there was a corps needed such a man with such qualifications. I got a telegram saying, well, sure, he is a very fine man, but he is so crippled out in Walter Reed that the doctors won't assure you that he can move around. And I said, you send the man and I will send him to battle in a litter, because he can do better that way than most people I know. Now, I feel this way about Secretary Dulles. The doctors have assured me there is nothing in his disease that is going to touch his heart and his head, and that is what we want.

I am constitutionally responsible for conducting the foreign affairs of the United States, and the man who has been my closest associate, certainly my principal assistant, and on whom all the responsibility for details has been resting, my closest friend and confidante in this whole business, is Secretary Dulles. I know of no man--in my knowledge in the world that has equaled his wisdom and his knowledge in this whole complicated business.

Therefore, as long as Secretary Dulles believes that he is in shape to carry on, he is exactly the person I want.

So far as his offer to resign, I must tell you this is no new thing. His dedication and his selflessness is so great that from the very first day he came into this office, he has constantly said, "If ever, Mr. President, I become for you either a political or a national liability, remember you have my resignation always, to be accepted at your pleasure."

Well, now, of course, this has been his attitude. There has never been a specific statement ever that he wants to resign, because to be saying that would mean that he was ready to lay down his duties and responsibilities that he believes to be so important.

And so, I just say to you again, as long as he is ready to carry on, he is the man I want. And I have not discussed with anyone the possibility of his successor.

Q. William McGaffin, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, the people who are concerned about freedom of information say that your administration has a bad record for bottling up information which they say the public is entitled to have. They would like to see you take the lead in correcting this situation.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, everybody seems to have ideas of many things, in particular when they have no responsibility.

A President has a very large organization to run. I have given my beliefs about the need for keeping certain information confidential until it can be published; and as quickly as it can be published in conformity with the security or other interests of the United States, then it should be given promptly because only with that kind of information can a public make up its mind as to what its own government should be.

Now, as an example of the kind of information not as security but which cannot be given out as quickly as it reaches the Government is this: take all of the reports on crops. If you publish this in advance or let it leak to get it before it could be evaluated and brought together, you could make it possible for a good many speculators to take advantage of this kind of thing.

So there is certain information, having nothing to do with the security, military security, of the United States, that cannot be promiscuously turned out, but it is given out as quickly as this is consistent with the best interests of the United States.

Now, on the part of security, there the people that are dealing with the problem--the State Department, the National Security Council, the Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense--those are the people who have to determine whether or not the item is really important from the security. Certainly we are not going to try to damage the security of the United States.

Q. Garnett D. Homer, Washington Star: Sir, there were introduced in the House yesterday 14 identical bills calling for a territorial form of home rule for the District of Columbia. There is also pending a proposal for a constitutional amendment to give the citizens of the District the right to vote for President and Vice President.

Could you express your opinions on both of those measures, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Horner, from the first day I was in this office, I have supported home rule.

Now, each year there seems to be some little change in detail, some new idea is brought up.

This year I have put in a bill that would make the District really on a territorial basis--you know, with an appointed governor and secretary, with a delegate in the Congress, and so on.

But I have not supported or have not suggested a constitutional amendment at this moment. I don't say my mind is closed to it; I just say I haven't done that.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: Mr. President, on the substance of the problem facing Secretary Dulles and the West in general, could you tell us whether you think the political and military changes in recent years affecting Europe are such that it might now be possible for the West to consider as part of the German reunification scheme some idea of thinning out our troops or troops on both sides, or of limiting weapons in central Europe?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Roberts, I am not going here to start talking about the details or the possibilities that may come out of negotiations.

The West has shown time and again its readiness to negotiate, on the whole problem of Germany and the region, anything reasonable in which both sides can have confidence.

We don't want, and we realize it would be serf-defeating, to build up anything that the Soviets could legitimately consider a menace on their border; we don't want to do that.

We want to do something that is decent; but to say now that one of the things that we want to throw in the pot, the thinning out of troops, and so on--there are a thousand factors each of which affects the others: the morale of the West, what their readiness is, what they believe about us, what our troops mean to them, even more than their actual strength.

I think that the best we can say is this: here we search for a just peace. That just peace is not going to come about until two sides can find some reasonable basis where these specific problems can be solved. Until that comes about, I think we have to do the best we can, stay strong, but always holding out a hand ready to be grasped if it will be grasped in good faith.

But I can't, I can't possibly at this moment, take the kind of detail of which you are speaking, and talk about it; because you are doing it out of context, and you couldn't do that one, really, without a long paper in front of you.

Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: Mr. President, may I ask a two-part question, sir?

Is there an allied agreement to use force, if necessary, to defend our rights in Berlin? And, two, if there is the risk of force, would you go to Congress for specific authority to act, as you did in the case of Formosa and the Middle East?

THE PRESIDENT. Again, Mr. Lawrence, you ask questions on matters each one of which has to be studied in its context--in other words, the situation at the time.

We have not said we are using force. We are saying we do not abandon our responsibilities. We will continue to carry them out, and it will be the responsibility of the other side if there is going to be any force; they have to use that to block our carrying out our responsibilities.

Q. Peter J. Kumpa, Baltimore Sun: Sir, in recent weeks we have heard reports that the Communists are gaining power in the government of Brigadier Kassem in Iraq.

I wonder if you could give us your evaluation of the situation, and tell us whether you are worried about it?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't say I am worried about it, I don't like the word. Certainly I am concerned about it.

Frankly, the reports are not so clear, and the conclusions that we can reach are not so clean-cut that I could give you a yes or no answer to your question.

I would merely say this: here is one of those places where we hope that the forces within the country that want to live independently and in some measure of freedom will triumph over those where they want to have a dictatorial type of government or Communist type--by that I mean Communist; and certainly that is the kind of development we want to see come about.

Q. Charles W. Roberts, Newsweek: Sir, I would like to ask you two related questions. There have been reports recently that Secretary McElroy would like to leave the Cabinet this year; secondly, there have been a lot of reports that you have difficulty getting and keeping people in Government jobs, now that you are barred by the Constitution from running again, in the last 2 years of your administration. Could you comment on both of those reports?

THE PRESIDENT. I will comment on them, yes.

First of all, Mr. McElroy did, when he accepted the job here, indicate there might be certain factors that might not allow him to go to the end of his term.

But I know this: he is dedicated to his job, and he has not brought up to me at this moment any expression of intention to quit at a particular time.

Now, next, about getting good men for this Government, I really believe it is a wrong premise that someone is starting, for this reason: I had a harder time when people thought they might be committed for 6 years of service than when they were for 2.

And I remember this: I believe the average person that takes a position in Government has a feeling, because of others' good opinion or under persuasion, that if he can do something for this country through a governmental job, that is a distinction that he rather likes. It is the kind of distinction that he can carry with him through his life, and maybe his children will think of it. Therefore, the very fact that he does not have to look forward to 8 years of this kind of, sometimes, tough work is a factor on the other side.

Now, there may be someone who is very politically motivated, who says, "Well, if I am going to have a job like that I want to be assured, I want to have it for a longer time." I think that is the minority, and it is not really the kind of person you are looking for.

So I would say the good man that believes you can persuade him that he has got something to deliver here, some service that he can give us, all of us, well, I don't think that he hesitates because of the fact that he may not have a longer job.

Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. Khrushchev said in Moscow yesterday that if we tried to shoot our way into West Berlin after Russia turns over the occupied area to East Germany, it would mean the beginning of war.

Mr. Khrushchev is also reported to have said that the recommendations of Senator Mansfield are more reasonable, apparently referring especially to the Senator's suggestion for direct negotiations between East Germany and West Germany.

Would you care to comment on both of those statements?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I haven't read this speech except in a most abbreviated sort.

I would say this: he must be talking about shooting to stop us from doing our duty. After all, that is what is going to happen if it happens. We are not saying that we are going to shoot our way into Berlin.

We say we are just going to go and continue carrying out our responsibilities to those people, the ones that we agreed to undertake way back in 1945.

So that if we are stopped it will be somebody else using force.

Now, with respect to his comments on Senator Mansfield's speech, I wouldn't want to say anything at the moment.

Q. Thomas N. Schroth, Congressional Quarterly: Mr. President, among the Lincoln Day speeches last week was one by a Republican Senator who said we should not make a fetish out of balancing the budget. There are certain conditions that he named, the reversal of the economy or increased military threat, could make deficit spending more important than a balanced budget.

Would you say that conditions could change this year to make you change your mind on a balanced budget?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will say this: very manifestly, last year we didn't have a balanced budget, and we could foresee that it wasn't, and we didn't make any fetish about it. I don't know why suddenly a balanced budget is getting to be a bad word. I think it is rather a good thing to be a bit frugal and say that we can live within our income.

I do not know what is the future, and I can't even see beyond the next day; I am not a seventh son of a seventh son.

I say this: when the conditions allow it, and with the conditions of rising prosperity--remember, personal income in the month of January is the highest it has ever been in this country--this kind of thing opens up this great question: if we cannot live within our means as prosperity is growing and developing, when are we going to do it? And if we are going to always live under deficit spending, what is going to happen to our currency?

This question doesn't seem to me to demand any detailed answer. It is clear.

Now, on the other hand, it has sometimes seemed a little bit odd that we have to make our whole economic, in some strange way, economic cycle coincide with the time it takes the earth to get around the sun.

I sometimes wonder whether we shouldn't think of our budget balancing in terms of 5-year terms, or at least to include the length of time that we find the ordinary business cycle. Then you could have maybe a discussion on the balancing of the budget and living within your income on a little bit better basis. One year's budget is not the whole answer, and we didn't ask for it last year. I am asking for it this year because I think it is good for the country and I think we can do it in this kind of a period. I think we must do it.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Sir, in a statement preliminary to an inquiry on inflation, the chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on the Economic Report, Senator Douglas, says that we are in general agreement as to the desirability of three objectives of economic policy: substantially full employment, an adequate rate of economic growth, and substantial stability of the price level. How do those objectives strike you, sir, and could you tell us what Mr. Nixon's impending committee will do that this committee itself may not do? 1

1A White House release of January 31 stated that the Vice President would serve as Chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Price Stability for Economic Growth, plans For which were outlined in the State of the Union Message and the Economic Report. The release further stated that the Committee would serve as a continuing Cabinet group to study the problem of how to maintain reasonable price stability as an essential basis for achieving a high and sustainable rate of economic growth.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, you are talking as the committee's objectives? Is that what you are talking about, or as the United States objectives?

Q. Mr. Morgan: I am reading from the New York Times, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. I know it, but--

Q. Mr. Morgan: It is indicated--

THE PRESIDENT. but whose objectives are these?

Q. Mr. Morgan: It is indicated that the Senator is speaking in terms of the country at large, implying that the committee's--

THE PRESIDENT. I think you will find exactly those things in the Economic Report. As a matter of fact, we even ask, I forget whether it was the Economic Report or the budget or my own speech, that the act be amended to make as one of our specific objectives keeping a stable dollar; and, of course, we want substantial full employment; we want an expanding economy, a healthy economy; and that means to us, means to anyone, I think, who studies this thing, a sound dollar.

So those objectives are perfectly fine. I have no quarrel with them whatsoever.

Now, what was the other, the second part?

Q. Mr. Morgan: The heart of my question, sir, was whether there was any confusion or duplication between the joint committee's inquiry and Mr. Nixon's impending inquiry.

THE PRESIDENT. None at all.

As a matter of fact, what he is doing is to find out what Government can do, what it can plan now and what it should be doing to promote these objectives; that is all.

Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown Times: There has been some disappointment in New York State, sir, that while you are going to Canada for the St. Lawrence Seaway opening ceremony, the inference in the White House statement was that you might not be able to make the United States ceremony the following day. Is there any chance that you will be able to, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have been to Massena, and certainly I have been to New York State; I have never been to Montreal, and this is a joint ceremony.

As it turned out, the day they fixed up--I thought I should take only a day, and it will probably be pretty bad. But I wouldn't see where there would be any hurt feelings, because I understand that the Queen and the Prince are going on all the way to no.

Hagerty: Chicago.

THE PRESIDENT. Chicago--in their yacht to pay a visit to our Midwest through this channel. So I'd think there can be no hurt feelings anywhere, really.

Q. Robert C. Young, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, you had breakfast this morning with Lawrence Kimpton, the chancellor of the University of Chicago in, I understand, connection with your National Goals Committee.

Could you tell us if you intend to appoint Mr. Kimpton chairman of that committee?

THE PRESIDENT. We didn't discuss appointments. We discussed the ideas and found a great deal of common ground in which we were interested.

I must say that it was, more than anything rise, an opportunity to. get to meet this man of whom I had heard so much. And I must say that what I had been told in the past was no better than my impression now; I think he is a very fine man.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, the Treasury is paying very high rates on the short-term securities, and apparently finding great difficulty in selling bonds.

Does the administration have any plans to ask Congress to increase the 4 1/4 percent ceiling on bonds?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, I think this: I think bonds should be marketed according to the demand, and I think if they are not, in the long run we run into difficulties. This applies to the mortgages on housing, Federal bonds, and everything else.

I think that if we are going to be a free enterprise country, we ought to take all of our debentures and our indebtedness and say, "All right, this money is going to earn this kind of return in this particular kind of an economy," whether it is on an upper leg or a lower leg, and I think if we don't try to do that, it would be bad.

Now, within the 4 1/4 we have always been able to do that. The reason your question is now pertinent is because the rate is getting close enough to make it look that you would have to sell bonds at a discount. Funny thing, they tell me under the law that you could offer a 4 1/4 bond and sell it at 95; but it is clear, as I understand the spirit of that law, that that would not be violated. I think we would have to go back to Congress if this situation, which I hope will not arise, really eventuates.

Q. Rod MacLeish, Westinghouse Broadcasting Company: Sir, can you give us your thoughts on Prime Minister Macmillan's proposed trip to Moscow?

THE PRESIDENT. There is nothing to say, particularly. He goes, of course, on the basis that he is returning a call that Bulganin and Khrushchev made to London a year ago or more. He does want to present to Mr. Khrushchev, of course, the views of his government, the problems that beset all Europe and really, indeed, all the world. Those have been, let's say, fairly concerted as to basis, and have been explained.

As a matter of fact, the last public statement that Mr. Dulles made, I think, brought that point out.

Q. Mr. MacLeish: Just one more aspect of that, sir. Have you discussed common objectives with Mr. Macmillan for this visit?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, not this particular visit, no.

Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, in view of the circumstances, would you think it would be desirable to hold a foreign ministers conference on Berlin in Washington or New York or some other place in the United States?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think, Mr. Wilson, it is one of those questions that when the thing comes up, has to be determined then. I suppose you are--the circumstances of which you speak are Mr. Dulles' illness?

Q. Mr. Wilson: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. I would think that would have very little to do about it. Frankly, in talking to Mr. Dulles yesterday afternoon, why, we just decided that we were going right ahead because, after all, we have had here a man for 6 years with us, presenting his views constantly to the National Security Council; he is backed up by able men of his own choosing in his own department, and we want his brain and his heart, as I say, as long as we can have it. But I don't think we are going just to make details of operations, suggest that they revolve around the circumstance of his disability at the moment.

Q. J. F. Ter Horst, Detroit News: Despite the upswing in the economy, sir, heavy unemployment continues in places like Detroit and Pittsburgh and so on, as you well know.

A week ago Walter Reuther, to his own UAW, suggested that it might be a good idea for a march of the unemployed on Washington to dramatize their plight.

I have two questions, sir: what would you think of such a march and, second part, would you favor a move now in Congress to extend the 13' week unemployment compensation that was passed last year at your request?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the first one, I believe that news item came out of Puerto Rico where people must be on the sunny beaches; I don't know whether they are going to march from there over to this foggy Washington or not. [Laughter]

Secondly, I don't see any good to be done, to come out of any such demonstration. Thirdly, I don't think this is the time to put the Federal Government back into this kind of a function when we are on a curve of rising prosperity.

Q. Spencer Davis, Associated Press: Would you give your estimate, sir, of relations between the United States and the Philippines? There have been indications in the past of some hurt feelings out there, that we have taken their friendship for granted.

Would you reply to that?

THE PRESIDENT. You have asked a question that could set me off on a very long dissertation.

I started working with the Philippines very intimately in 1935, and for some good bit over 4 years I was really employed or was one of the officers that was working under that government, that provisional government then under President Quezon. So I have lived with these problems of bases and jurisdiction and all the rest of it.

It is possible that sensitive peoples can decide that we are taking them too much for granted. But I would point out what the United States has tried to do. I think the record is very good, and I think that if people of good will get together and talk about these, there is really no difficulty.

The questions that really come in are psychological and a matter of pride rather than of great moment otherwise.

Q. Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, have you given any thought to the appointment of a chief negotiator for these upcoming conferences in the event that Mr. Dulles physically could not negotiate them himself?


Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: Mr. President, there seems to be considerable hostility in Congress to your proposed curbs on secondary boycotts and some types of picketing, and the tendency to separate that from the labor reform bill.

I wonder how you feel about that and what sort of priority you give to that type of thing.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, these are the two major differences between other bill] put in and mine.

I personally believe that they are just a feature of decency and justice to the public and to the worker.

I think the blackmail picketing is unjustified, and I don't think that secondary boycotts should be tolerated.

Now, I have nothing whatsoever to say about Congress' opinion about this. I am giving my own. I think those two features should be right squarely in the bills.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. President, there are economy-minded members of both parties at the Capitol who think you can save money if every expenditure had to go through the Appropriations Committee rather than the backdoor payments direct from the Treasury to some agencies. Mr. Rayburn is for continuing the backdoor method.

My question is this: since you have refused to spend money actually appropriated when you didn't think it wise, could you also refuse the backdoor Treasury payments direct? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. To go to the first question, the comment, I think that I should not comment on congressional methods for making money available. They have the power of the purse and they exercise it as they choose.

Now, when we get into this method of stopping some expenditures because they are deemed unwise, normally, or so far as I remember, I have done that only until I could go back to Congress and try to convince them that they have been mistaken, that this kind of floor under expenditures and strengths, for example, is not justified. If they are persistent, if they stick to this thing, I have no recourse except to execute the laws.

And I would say, with these other authorizations, if I did not follow the letter of the law instantly, I should certainly take it back to them, because I have no desire to be a dictator. And even though I sometimes think I know much better than some of these laws would seem to indicate, nevertheless when you come down to it, just like in any decision of the courts or anything else, I have to execute them. But I do have my right, I think, to go and put in a reclamor for a while and say I think they are not quite right.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and fifty-first news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:28 to 11:01 o'clock on Wednesday morning, February 18, 1959. In attendance: 261.

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/235206

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