Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

August 24, 1960

THE PRESIDENT. Good morning, please sit down.

For the benefit of the radio and television industry, I'll tell them that I signed this bill on equal time this morning. 1

Any questions?

1 The President referred to Public Law 86-677 (74 Stat. 554) suspending for the 1960 campaign the equal opportunity requirements of section 315 of the Communications Act of 1934 for nominees for the offices of President and Vice President.

Q. Jack Bell, Associated Press: Mr. President, after his version of the medical aid bill was rejected by the Senate yesterday, Senator Kennedy said, and I quote, "If we are going to have effective legislation, we are going to have to have an administration that will provide leadership and a Congress that will act." Would you care to comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know whether I have got equal time in this debate. [Laughter] I have to watch these things, because I am not a candidate.

The Democrats have a 2 to 1 majority in the Congress, in both Houses. And I don't see how they could want more, or if they do, how. They are having enough difficulty controlling this, because they apparently are not getting anywhere with it. Now, I just say this, for the leadership end of it, they are saying that a brand new program was put before them just to enact within the last few weeks, or couple of weeks. And I have called your attention time and time again, the very same things I sent down in August, I sent in January and in May, and in numerous special sessions. So I don't know why the complaints. They have got the majority--such great majorities they can do anything they want to, if they get together.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, now that you have signed the bill which you mentioned a moment ago, could you tell us how you look upon the prospect of debates between Mr. Nixon and Mr. Kennedy, as a factor in the campaign and in the election?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am not certain that it all has to be on debates. I think equal time doesn't necessarily have to be in a debating atmosphere. I do think that it is a very fine thing in the public service that the networks will be performing by allowing these people to do this on an equal time basis and without cost. Actually, it seems to me over these years the costs of presenting the issues and cases and personalities to the public has gone way up, and if these networks can help out on this equal time basis, it will be a fine thing.

Q. David P. Senther, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, would you please give us your latest opinion as to the major issues in the campaign?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think that we have always agreed that politics ends at the water's edge. But the conduct apparently of foreign affairs is going to be a very important issue, whether or not I would believe it should be. It apparently is going to be, because it has been talked so much.

At home I would say that the basic material question would be the farm, and of course I think we will make, most certainly, sound money or--not sound money but preventing the debasement of our currency, and with fiscal responsibility.

So I think things of that kind are going to be probably debated more than anything else in the campaign.

Q. Robert C. Pierpoint, CBS News: Mr. President, I wonder if you could tell us why you feel, as Mr. Hagerty mentioned the other day you do, that Captain Powers' sentence was too severe, 1 in view of the fact that, for instance, the United States sentenced Colonel Abel to, I believe, 30 years, and we have given less severe sentences to other Russian spies.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think I regretted that it was so long; I hoped for less, when you come down to it. I have no measure of just what has been done in like cases over the years, for the simple reason that this particular kind of case has never before come up.

1 On August 19 the Press Secretary to the President issued the following statement: "The President has been informed of the sentence imposed on Mr. Powers by the Soviet court, and he deplores the Soviet propaganda activity in connection with the entire episode, beginning last May, and regrets the severity of the sentence. He extends his sincere sympathy to the members of Mr. Powers' family."

Q. John M. Hightower, Associated Press: Mr. President, I wondered if you could tell us under what circumstances and for what purpose you might address the United Nations. Ambassador Lodge said it was a matter under serious consideration.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it's a matter that is discussed every year when there comes up the opening of the General Assembly. I did this in 1953, and one other time. I am not sure whether it was on the opening day, but another time.

Now, this time there are so many things that are not completed. We have had this long session of the nuclear tests which now is recessed, and there are a lot of things that probably need to be repeated. But this doesn't mean that I personally would do this unless I think it was something that I wanted sufficiently to emphasize as to ask for time before them. Normally, the Secretary of State would do this.

Q. William H. Y. Knighton, Jr., Baltimore Sun: Mr. President, a few weeks ago Mr. Hagerty, in discussing your political campaign plans for this year, suggested that a great amount of your activities would not be of a traditional nature. He has declined to explain that so far. I wonder if you would care to enlighten us on that now, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will have to say, quoting Mr. Hagerty, he hasn't explained that to me, either. [Laughter]

What I think: we have got a thing coming up now where a President wants to help perpetuate his party in the White House, and to increase their strength in the Legislature, of course.

Now, as I pointed out the other day, there are two types of authority, so far as party affairs, that are now to be observed. One of them is the man still responsible for the running of this Government, and will continue to be so until January 20. The other is the mapping out of these campaigns.

Now, I would expect there will be two or three occasions when--and probably no more--where the party as such wants me to do something, and I will probably respond, so far as I can.

Now, on the other hand, I have already a number of engagements that take me through a great deal of this United States, and under various bodies--economic, educational, accountants, charitable institutions. And those I shall fulfill. But they will not be political. So I guess he meant that my activities were going to be nonpolitical as well as political during this time.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post: Mr. President, you just said that the farm problem might be an issue--was likely to be an issue. Over the weekend a statement was made that the administration, including Mr. Nixon and Mr. Benson, had brought disaster to the farmers. There are usually two sides to these questions. Would you care to comment on that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. We are operating under laws--some of them go back, way back into the late thirties. The laws have never been reformed. We have struggled for 8 years to get real reform in the farm laws with a basic purpose of making the farm production more nearly responsive to the demand. And we have tried to increase world demand, or at least world consumption, through PL 480, by expanding markets--commercial markets. That is one of the reasons that Secretary Benson has traveled so much and is still traveling--to produce better markets. But to say that Mr. Benson and the administration have brought this problem--this farm problem into its acute stage, whether you call it disastrous or not, is just to my mind a distortion that is used for political purposes, and nothing else.

Q. Andrew f. Tully, Jr., Scripps-Howard Newspapers: Sir, there has been considerable comment that Pilot Powers didn't have a chance because the United States had already pleaded guilty for him. Do you think now, in retrospect, that there might have been an alternative to our acknowledging that flight?

THE PRESIDENT. To my mind, the young man, Powers, that found himself in that position, could not possibly be repudiated by the Government. And therefore, to have tried to have done so would have made him some kind of adventurous fellow that suddenly had designed, manufactured a plane, flew it for himself, for no reason whatsoever. Now, this doesn't make sense to me. And as far as I am concerned, for my part of this, taking responsibility for this kind of action, I have no reason for thinking I would change my mind.

Q. Felix Belair, New York Times: Mr. President, in view of the indictment of the Castro regime by the American Republics foreign ministers, and particularly the United States white paper along this same line, do you consider that the Cuban problem is now beyond the realm of personal diplomacy, involving yourself; and as a second part, has the Monroe Doctrine been effectively supplanted by the Rio and other nonintervention treaties?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, let's take the second part. from my viewpoint, Mr. Belair, I think that the Monroe Doctrine has by no means been supplanted. It has been merely extended. When the Monroe Doctrine was written and enunciated, it had in mind such things as happened when the Austrians and the French--or an Austrian Emperor with some french troops--came into Mexico. Times have changed, and there are different kinds of penetration and subversion that can be very dangerous to the welfare of the OAS.

Now, the OAS is an organization that, for a long, long time we have been supporting, just as strongly as we can. We do want it to use its collective influence, its moral and political influence, in straightening out these things. But that does not, as I see it, inhibit any government, when it comes down to--when the chips are finally down, to looking after its own interests. They must be represented, of course--I mean they must be protected, of course.

Q. Edward V. Koterba, United features: Mr. President, in a follow-up to Eddie Folliard's question, a Midwestern poll shows an apparent resurgence of strong support for the Republicans across the farm Belt. Sir, would you say this indicated a renewed confidence for Ezra Benson, who one Republican referred to last week as a scapegoat for all the farmers' troubles? And could you at this time, sir, give us your judgment on this man who has served as your Secretary of Agriculture for 7½ years?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think I did that a couple of weeks ago, when I said that I have never known a man who was more honest, more dedicated, and more informed in his particular work. He is, moreover, a courageous man in presenting the views of the administration, and with his work I have not only had the greatest sympathy, but wherever I could possibly find a way to do it, I have supported exactly what he has been trying to do.

Now, I don't know about--anything about the effects in the farm Belt at this moment, for the simple reason I haven't had any recent reports of opinion there. I do know this: in the long run, people respect honesty and courage and selflessness in the governmental service. And I don't believe that any of us should be so free as to crucify Secretary Benson. I think he has done a wonderful service.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, have you specific plans for active participation in the congressional campaigns comparable to '56 and '58?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I have--as I recall, there are three tentative dates that could be called political on my calendar. Now, I don't think they have yet been announced, so I won't try to get things bailed up by being too quick about it. [Confers with Mr. Hagerty] Oh, September 29th. That is the fund-raising--and I am going to speak in one of the things. That will be a 10-minute speech, something like that, during the half hour.

Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: In the last 7 ½ years, sir, you have appointed a great many Presidential commissions that have done a great deal of very good work in studying various national problems. My question is whether you have thought of getting those commissions to bring their work up to date, so that their conclusions could be modernized and presented to your successor, to guide him at the end of the election.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. Mr. Reston, I didn't think of it in those same terms. But you have put a thought in my head, and I am going to look and see whether something of this kind could be done. I did appoint a commission to look into all the administrative activities of the Government, and it reported some years back. And we have had the question up right now, whether we should not either reappoint that one or appoint a new one, and to bring this up, because it will take some months. And so in the--since the commission would be questioning and investigating people of real experience, that this would be something to turn over to. a successor and would be very valuable. I do not for a moment question the value of this if we can find a practical way of doing these things.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Mr. President, will you tell us some of the big decisions that Mr. Nixon has participated in since you have been in the White House and he, as Vice President, has been helping you?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mrs. McClendon, no one participates in the decisions. Now let's see, we just--I don't see why people can't understand this: no one can make a decision except me if it is in the national executive area. I have all sorts of advisers, and one of the principal ones is Mr. Nixon. But any Vice President that I should have, even if I did not admire and respect Mr. Nixon as I do, I would still keep him close in all these things, because I think any President owes it to the country to have the next individual in line of succession completely aware of what is going on. Otherwise, you have a break that is unconscionable and unnecessary.

Now, if just when you talk about other people sharing a decision, how can they? No one can, because then who is going to be responsible? And because I have been raised as an Army individual and have used staffs, I think you will find no staff has ever thought that they made a decision as to what should be done or should not he done when I was a commander. And I don't think anyone in the Government will find or you can find anyone that would say differently.

Q. Lillian Levy, Science Service: Mr. President, on May 13 you signed an Executive order which allows each interested federal agency to fix its own radiation safety standards and to exceed, if it deems necessary, the standards recommended by the federal Radiation Council. Is there any reason why the Executive order did not provide that any standards set by the individual agency which would exceed the radiation safety levels recommended by your Council be subject to review and approval by the federal Radiation Council which originally was established, I believe, for the purpose of recommending radiation safety standards for all agencies, so that the confusion and conflict--[laughter]--within an agency between keeping to standards of safety on the one hand, and performing its functions in developing nuclear energy on the other, might be eliminated? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as a matter of fact, the question is sensible, because I assume, from the way you have read it, that there could be some confusion here if any excess radiation were allowed to escape and were not reported to the proper people. If the order is defective, I will try to find out about it. 1

1 On May 13 the President approved seven recommendations contained in a memorandum entitled "Radiation Protection Guidance for federal Agencies" addressed to him by Secretary Arthur S. Flemming, who served as chairman of the federal Radiation Council. The memorandum, prepared as a report by the Council following a study of the hazards and use of radiation, was made public by the White House on May 17 and was published together with the President's statement of approval in the federal Register of May 18, 1960 (25 F.R. 4402).

A further memorandum from Chairman Flemming, made public on October 13 by the White House, stated that 14 federal agencies had indicated in replies to the Council's letter of July 15 that they were conducting radiation protection activities in accordance with the approved guides, and that no deviations from the guides were in effect or planned at the time of reporting. Mr. Flemming noted that a mechanism for regular reporting on these matters had been established.

Q. Frank van der Linden, Nashville Banner: Mr. President, the Democrats apparently are going to let Congress go home without passing your oft requested bill for additional federal judgeships. They are apparently turning down your offer to share these between the two parties, in a gamble that maybe they can get all of them next year. I wonder, sir, do you think maybe they are playing politics with this, or are you going to make another appeal to them before they leave?

THE PRESIDENT. They will have to make their own decision. Whether they are just ignoring the welfare of the United States and the administering of justice, or for any other reason, I don't know what it is. But I think in every year that I have been here, I have recommended these judges. And I don't know why it was not done.

Q. E. W. Kenworthy, New York Times: Reports from San Jose, sir, this morning indicate that a number of the Latin American foreign ministers have been appealing to Mr. Roa, the Cuban foreign Minister, to speak moderately when his turn comes. Evidently, this has made some impression, because it has been reported that Mr. Roa has asked Premier Castro if he may moderate his remarks.

My question is whether you think the situation is really irretrievable. You spoke just now of cooperation in these matters. Do you think it would be useful if a number of heads of government of the American Republics met with Mr. Castro to try to prevent this situation from deteriorating any further?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Of Course, every time you bring up this question of heads of government meeting, why then there is so much speculation, and then next you have almost an intention, and sometimes you practically have your ticket bought--at least in the papers.

Now, I repeat what I have said many times. Whenever we can see-a number of us, I mean, not only in our own Government but in others-that something of this kind will be useful, I will always be ready to participate. By no means do I want to admit or charge that this situation is irretrievable. Cuba has been one of our finest friends. We were the ones that conducted the war that set them free. And when they got in trouble, we had an occupation, back about 1908, and again we set them on their feet, and set them free. And we have had a long history of friendly relationships, and we have tried to keep our hands out of their internal political affairs. We have not tried to throw out someone we didn't like, or anything like that.

So I would think that the very welfare of the Cuban people finally demands some kind of composition of the difficulties between the American states, including our own on the one hand and Cuba on the other.

Q. Carleton Kent, Chicago Sun-Times: Mr. President, a news story based on another look at the Potsdam papers quotes Marshal Stalin as having called you an honest man who turned over 135,000 German soldiers to the Russians. Would you care to comment on this historical footnote?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know about this. And now I have to call on memory. Under the treaty, or the arrangements made by the several allies--and remember then Russia was an ally--I was ordered to go into the German--the prison camps in our areas and get these people and send them back to Russia. How many there were, I don't remember. But I do remember this: there was trouble because some of them didn't want to go back. And even after the--I think the mass movement was accomplished, then we had to allow on both sides of the line missions to go in to search and to find out whether there was anyone else who should go back to the country of origin.

Now, it is a feeble memory that I have, but that was the story, and I don't remember that there was any 135,000. It strikes me there were more but maybe I'm wrong.

Q. Rutherford M. Poats, United Press International: Mr. President, a moment ago you expressed regret at the possibility that the conduct as well as the issues in foreign affairs would become a major issue in the campaign. There has also been published speculation that both candidates might try to outdo each other in demonstrating how they would stand up to Khrushchev. I wonder, sir, if you could elaborate on your expression of regret and tell us whether you regard this issue of standing up to Khrushchev as one of the dangers you see in bringing foreign policy into the campaign.

THE PRESIDENT. It never even occurred to me to make that as one of the basic issues--what to do with Mr. Khrushchev. I assumed that anyone who has got strong convictions as to the line he should take in negotiation to protect and advance the interests of his own country would push them forthrightly and courageously, and the point of mannerisms would not be particularly important.

Now, this other part of your question--my regret. You must remember I was in the Army a long time, and I had no politics. I served my most important military positions under two Democratic Presidents, and it never occurred to me to--and certainly never occurred to any of them-to ask me what my politics were, if any.

Now, it is in this kind--with this kind of a background, that I would have hoped that our foreign affairs could be truly--and as a matter of tradition almost--conducted in a bipartisan spirit, and true bipartisan action.

If we are going to make these things such an important part of political or partisan debate, I think it is a little bit too bad.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, according to published reports, anti-Catholic propaganda has markedly increased in the campaign. You have already told us that as far as you are concerned, a candidate's religion should not make any difference and should not be an issue. But a man whom you have publicly esteemed, Evangelist Billy Graham, now says that it is a legitimate issue and could be a decisive one in this election. Do you have any comments on that, and do you have any further thoughts on the problem in general?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as I say, my usual answer to this, I go back to the Constitution. We do have freedom of worship, and I think the Constitution means exactly what it says. And I think it is incumbent on all of us to respect the fights of others.

Now, I haven't seen Billy Graham's statement, and therefore I don't know whether it is in context or not.

I would say this: it should not be an issue. But I, on the other hand-I am not so naive that I think that in some areas it will not be. It is just almost certain, because as long as you have got strong emotional convictions and reactions in these areas, there is going to be some of it; you can't help it. But I certainly never encouraged it. And I don't think I would ever admit that it is really a legitimate question.

Q. Charles H. Mohr, Time Magazine: Mr. President, one of your answers to a previous question raises this question: one of the issues in this campaign is seeming to turn on the question of Mr. Nixon's experience, and the Republicans to some extent almost want to claim that he has had a great deal of practice at being President. Now, in answer to the other question, I wonder if it would be fair to assume that what you mean is that he has been primarily an observer and not a participant in the executive branch of the Government. In other words, many people have been trying to get at the degree that he has--I don't want to use that 'word "participated"--but acted in important decisions, and it is hard to pin down.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it seems to me that there is some confusion here--haziness--that possibly needs a lot of clarification.

I said he was not a part of decision-making. That has to be in the mind and heart of one man. All right. Every commander that I have ever known, or every leader, or every head of a big organization, has needed and sought consultative conferences with his principal subordinates. In this case, they are normally Cabinet officers. They include also such people as the head of GSA, the Budget Bureau, and the Vice President as one of the very top. So the Vice President has participated for 8 years, or 7 ½ years, in all of the consultative meetings that have been held. And he has never hesitated--and if he had I would have been quite disappointed--he has never hesitated to express his opinion, and when he has been asked for it, expressed his opinion in terms of recommendation as to decision. But no one, and no matter how many differences or whether they are all unanimous--no one has the decisive power. There is no voting.

It is just--you could take this body here, and say, "Look, we are going to do something about the streets down here, about parking around here for you people." All right. Now, everybody has got his say. But I have to handle, let's say, around the White House, and so who is going to decide--I am; not this body. So Mr. Nixon has taken a full part in every principal discussion.

Q. Mr. Mohr: We understand that the power of decision is entirely yours, Mr. President. I just wondered if you could give us an example of a major idea of his that you had adopted in that role, as the decider and final--

THE PRESIDENT. If you give me a week, I might think of one. I don't remember.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and ninetieth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:30 to 11:01 o'clock on Wednesday morning, August 24, 1960. In attendance: 203.

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/235217

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