The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. I have no announcements.
Q. Merriman Smith, United Press International: Mr. President, the new Acting President of Korea says he still expects you to visit there June 22d. Could you comment on that for us, sir; and in this connection, describe for us the role of the United States in the current Korean crisis-specifically, did this Government ever indicate to Korea that we thought President Rhee should leave office?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, you've got a number of barrels on your gun there, but I'll try to remember all your points.
First of all, I have no change of plans whatsoever. I expect to go to Korea.
Secondly, to charge America with interference in the internal affairs of Korea is not correct.
Now, we start off with this: Syngman Rhee is not only, has been not only a great man in his area, but he has been a tremendous patriot. I think he is one of those men that can be called "The father of his country." He fought for its independence from the moment it lost it, I think in 1910; he has never ceased; and as he has grown older, there would be no doubt that here and there there have been mistakes. Now, in this last election there were certain irregularities. And the most that I ever did, and this was as a friendly gesture for a man I know and respect and admire, I said that trouble could come out of such irregularities and hoped that they could be stopped. I said this through the State Department; I believe it was published. No interference of any kind was ever undertaken by the United States; and we had no part in inciting, or know anything about the inciting of, this difficulty.
Just exactly what is going to happen I don't know; but I do know this: both the Communist press of Peking and, I believe, of Moscow have expressed some disappointment that Mr. Rhee has again shown a statesmanlike attitude in saying, "All right, I'm still serving my people and I'll do what seems to be correct."
I might add this: there is no evidence whatsoever that there was any Communist inspiration for this unrest that was brought about.
Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, this question is based on a White House announcement yesterday, that Mr. Nixon might be called on to substitute for you at the summit. Perhaps you have emphasized no theme more emphatically than the need to go wherever it was necessary to go and do whatever it was necessary to do to obtain and secure peace. Could you suggest to us what overriding domestic developments outside of an outright emergency there might be that would call you away from summit deliberations?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think it's simple. Congress is in session and there are a number of bills that are important that are before the Congress. If they should come at an awkward time for me and I felt that they should be vetoed, now I have quite a tough time schedule. Any important bill that requires a veto not only requires the deepest study in the departments concerned, but it demands daily consultation with me; because I am the one that has got to be convinced that this is a bad bill or a good bill. Therefore you cannot do this, as I say, if these bills are important, from a distance.
Now, the only reason that I happen to have said this in this particular case, we don't know how long this summit meeting is going to be. In 1955 we had a pretty good understanding of the number of days. Everybody agreed that this time it should go as long as it was felt necessary. So, since I am leaving on the 14th and had to fix a date for my visit to Portugal on Sunday, I took the 23d, the 23d to the 24th. This is getting along at a rather long period. So, I said if domestic requirements did bring me back, I would have to ask Mr. Nixon to serve for me as the head of the delegation. This doesn't mean that I expect him to be there, but I simply put the warning.
Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: For more years than you have been in the White House, the pitiful children of the West Virginia unemployed coal miners have been starving for proper food. We do give them whatever surpluses we have. While you and Congress talk about helping the needy in foreign countries, isn't there something that you could do for needy Americans in this rich America of our own?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mrs. Craig, you say they haven't been helped. I thought they had. Now I'm not going to try to generalize here or make any alibis. I will find out exactly what has happened, because in talking to the Secretary of Agriculture over the years, I assumed that for those people that were really destitute, there were methods for helping them so that they got enough to eat. 1
1 On April 28 the White House issued a press release in response to Mrs. Craig's question. The release referred to the lack of information and understanding about the amount of Federal assistance that had been made available to destitute children and families not only in West Virginia but throughout the Nation. It added "the facts are that very material assistance has been given to these groups. It should be made perfectly clear that by law and as a matter of policy all surplus foods are made available to needy persons in this country before they are made available for donation to needy persons abroad." The release then outlined in detail the nature and extent of Federal assistance in West Virginia through the school lunch program, through the making available to needy families of surplus commodities, and through social security.
The release concluded as follows: "The Federal Government shares with State and local governments in providing monthly public assistance payments to four needy groups of people--the aged, blind, disabled, and children. In fiscal year 1959 payments to these four groups totalled $34,383,000, of which $26,139,000 or 76 percent came from the Federal Government. Needy children and their families received the major share of this assistance--$21,531,000, of which $16,396,000 came from the Federal Government."
Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, you and President de Gaulle agreed that disarmament should be a priority subject at the summit. If we should have substantial disarmament somewhere along the line, do you think it would send this economy into a tailspin?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I can't believe that it would, for this simple reason: we are now scratching around to get money for such things as school construction, a bill that I recommended a year ago. We are trying to build our roads before they become obsolete, and have to get a new program to bring them around. There are all sorts of things to be done in this country in the way of reclamation and so on that have to take over the years. I see no reason why the sums which now are going into these sterile, negative mechanisms that we call war munitions shouldn't go into something positive. Moreover, a greater portion of it could go into investment in the foreign field which in the long run will make us more prosperous than will just putting them in tanks and airplanes.
Q. Mr. Burd: May I ask one more thing on that? What role do you see for the Government in this conversion period if there were disarmament, in the sense of helping industry or not helping them?
THE PRESIDENT. I think, Mr. Burd, you are making one assumption that probably is not correct; that is, that if you got some agreement, that instantly there would be a very--cutoff. I think the thing would be an almost imperceptible decline; and that could be picked up, I think, without any great trouble.
Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, in New York yesterday General de Gaulle renewed his pledge of self-determination for the Algerians. I wonder if you could comment on that and tell us anything rise that you and General de Gaulle may have discussed on that point?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I asked him specifically whether he stood by his pledge, and his speech of September 16, 1959, in which he promised a self-determination for the Algerian people with the suggested three-under three methods. He said that he not only stood by that but that it was the continued policy, the official policy as well as his personal conviction about the situation.
Now, the reason I asked the question was because of one or two speeches that he had made, one of them I believe at Constantine, the language as interpreted to us here seemed to mean that he had hardened, that he had changed his attitude. I put the specific question, and I said on that basis, just as I did in September 1959, "I endorse what you are doing and wish you well in its progress."
Q. Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, if it should develop that Vice President Nixon were to go to the summit meeting after you leave it, would you expect the other heads of government to stay on, or would you expect them to appoint representatives of comparable rank to continue the talks?
THE PRESIDENT. Wall now, it wouldn't be more than for a couple of days, so they would stay. As a matter of fact I have notified my friends, including Mr. Khrushchev, that this is always a possibility, because when we were trying to discuss the matter of the probable length of the conference, I had to insert this one possible caveat. The others are not under the same kind of compulsion, under certain situations; so if I had to come back, if the thing ran more than 2 or at the outside 3 days that he'd do, I'd be right back there. But in the meantime I would have taken care of whatever I thought was necessary.
Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, inasmuch as our democratic attitude has brought about free elections in distant South Korea, could you tell us what is our current attitude towards the absence of free elections under the Castro regime in Cuba?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, you say we brought them about. I think that the Korean people brought them about. I believe the Koreans are dedicated to the self-expression of peoples. I believe that they are against communism and they have brought this about by their protests.
Now, I must say this: I deplore violence in these things. I have several times brought out that protests by peaceful assembly to bring to the attention of responsible officials the feelings of people, that's fine. I bitterly resent violence in connection with these things. So I think that we didn't do it. I did say to Mr. Rhee this could lead to trouble, if our reports are correct; but that's all.
Q. Robert C. Pierpoint, CBS News: Mr. President, I wonder if you. could tell us some of your hopes for the summit conference in the light of two things: first of all, your visit with President de Gaulle; and, secondly, the recent belligerent statement by Khrushchev on Berlin.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, you mean the speech at Baku?
Q. Mr. Pierpoint: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT. Of course, when you come down to it, it is just a reiteration of the same old theme and the same old story.
I don't think that we should take that too seriously; but certainly if he means it as an ultimatum, which I don't believe he does, but if he does then I would have to reply just as I have to him before, and said to him, I shall never go to any meeting under a threat of force, the use of force or an ultimatum of any kind. I'm going there as a free representative of a free country if I go, and I'm sure he understands that. Therefore, I don't believe that his statement means a real change in policy. It's just a mere--more of the same.
Now, you say that you'd like to know about my hopes for the summit. I think the most we can hope for, at this time, is case of tension, some evidence that we are coming closer together--sufficiently so that people have a right to feel a little bit more confident in the world in which they are living and in its stability.
How this might come about, I don't know. There are, of course, the subjects of ceasing of tests and with a controlled system for that, for developing some step in disarmament, and for greater contacts, particularly cultural contacts. I think that there are a number of ways in which this might begin, and that's about all you can say.
Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: A number of men in American public life recently have spoken up on how they feel about the injection of the religious issue into the political campaign. Could you tell us how you feel on that?
THE PRESIDENT. First of all, let me read two items from the American Constitution, article VI:
"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."
The second is the Bill of Rights and it is the first one of those rights:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; . . ."
Now, my answer, as far as I can give it, has been better given by the Constitution than in any words I can think of.
Q. John M. Hightower, Associated Press: Mr. President, if Mr. Khrushchev at the summit conference raises a very heavy pressure for his demands on Berlin, and in effect creates a crisis, would you regard such a development as blocking your hopes for an easing of tensions and for some agreement in the field of disarmament?
THE PRESIDENT. I reported to you people that Mr. Khrushchev said that he was going to raise this question, he was going to try to argue it, but that he was not putting any time limit upon an accomplishment.
I think that certainly at that moment he meant it. He knows that there are certain events coming around in the world. There are elections here and abroad and every place else; possibly he wants to see what's going to happen, I don't know. For example, there is a German election in which he is unquestionably interested. And he is probably hoping for some closer relations between West Germany and some of the border states, particularly like Poland. So there are other developments that he could expect or would hope to come about that would help to solve his problems from his viewpoint. But I think that is the reason that he sees there is no reason for putting down an ultimatum at this moment, because otherwise you just run into an immovable object and an irresistible force and there you are. Of course that would have a very great effect on the hopes that we have.
Q. Rutherford M. Poats, United Press International: Sir, I believe in listing your hopes and prospects for the summit you did not mention any settlement on Berlin or Germany. May we conclude from that and your answer just given that you do not have much, see much chance of any agreement there on that subject?
THE PRESIDENT. I think our position has been so clearly stated in speeches over the years, just recently one by the Vice President, one by Secretary Dillon, one by the Secretary of State. The point is that we are not going to give up the juridical position that we have.
It doesn't seem feasible or possible to me that any agreement could now be reached that would settle this whole thing; that we have to remember. But that does not mean that some kind of progress cannot be made, the side issue or side effect of which could be making a better approach toward Berlin in the months to come.
Q. Carleton Kent, Chicago Sun-Times: Mr. President, can you tell us anything of your administration's plans to send Congress a health insurance bill at this session?
THE PRESIDENT. I am preparing now a message for Congress giving my great concern about several bills. The only reason that is holding it up is that we have not yet been able to coordinate, to bring together the various aspects, you might say, of this great problem and try to make a sensible unit out of the literally dozens of different proposals and alternatives suggested.
Everybody agrees that in this field is a problem. Some of it, of course, is exemplified in very pitiful cases. There are all sorts of areas in which this is attacked--local, State, Federal, voluntary methods and every other kind of thing. The only thing to which I am utterly opposed is compulsory insurance in this field; and to put the matter in the OASI by adding on a half percent of taxes, half for the workman and half for the company, does not seem to me to be suitable because I regard that as a compulsory affair.
Q. Spencer Davis, Associated Press: Could you give us a better idea now of your travel plans for the Soviet Union, Japan, and Korea; and the possibility that you will not disappoint some of your Far Eastern friends by going to the Philippines and Taipei?
THE PRESIDENT. With this last part, every time you undertake a trip someone expresses a hope that you would go to another place. Now, if you continue this far enough, well, I couldn't get back here in time to vote next year. [Laughter]
Therefore, there has to be a compromise. I do my best in advance to explain my situation to those of our friends that might have an interest in it. So far, I have not felt able to enlarge the plans which include visits to Russia, Japan, and a very brief call in Korea.
The one in Russia, I don't believe the details are yet fixed sufficiently so that I could give you the actual schedule. I think in a few days I probably could--Mr. Hagerty says in a few days it could be.
Q. John Herling, National Newspaper Syndicate: At long last, sir, preparations are being made for that labor-management summit conference and in your January State of the Union Message you talked about the public interest which required such a getting together. May I ask, sir, why the public is not directly represented in such a proposed conference?
THE PRESIDENT. I think that they will be. First of all, we are starting out to get three representatives of labor and three of business to determine who they believe should be included in the membership of a committee that will do this. So I would rather see three businessmen and three recognized labor leaders determining on the composition of the final commission than I would to just name it myself. Frankly, the only thing I'm doing here is suggesting this thing and getting it started by putting the six individuals together, having seen George Meany and then Mr. Bannow. In this way I hope it will take just as much concern about the public interest as all of the rest of us are. 1
1 On April 26 the White House announced that the President had met with George Meany, President of the AFL-CIO, and that he would soon meet with Rudolph Bannow, President of the NAM, concerning the proposed conference. The release stated that the representatives of labor and of management would form a committee of six "to develop among themselves, without Government participation, understandings on the subject matters of the conference, select such additional conferees as they may decide upon, determine time and place of first meeting, and decide on other matters necessary to inaugurate a series of conferences."
Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, last December the 2d I asked you a question and you said you'd look into it, and that was about the ex parte conversations of Thomas Corcoran, a lawyer, with members of the Federal Power Commission, and actions that resulted in an increase in rates not once but at least twice. I wonder what you think about this?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't recall, but I assure you this, that I told them to do it.
Do you have anything [addresses Mr. Hagerty]?
Mr. Hagerty: Yes, but it's too long an answer now. [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. Come over to Mr. Hagerty's office and see if he can give you the exact answer.
Q. Mrs. McClendon: Sir, I've been over there several times and asked that question--
THE PRESIDENT. Well, do you think you or I should do the correction for Mr. Hagerty? One of us will have to do it. [Laughter]
Q. E. W. Kenworthy, New York Times: Mr. President, several leading scientists last week testified before the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy that the art of concealing underground tests was outstripping the art of detecting them. Would the views of those scientists be taken into account in our negotiations at Geneva or at Paris and would we request an increase in the number of detection stations for a treaty on a nuclear test ban?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, you know the plan that we suggested was to agree on the methods for eliminating those above the atmosphere, those in the atmosphere, and those under the sea; and then, underground, down. to I believe what they call a seismic index of 4.75 which is supposed to show a size, I believe, somewhere in the order of 20 kt. Up until that point, that would require an inspection system about like that that was laid out in 1958 at Geneva; but to go below that is going to take a very much more elaborate system.
What we have asked is for a group of the three countries that are working on this to get their scientists and see whether they can come up and develop the kind of plan that would be needed for these below the critical point. That is as far as it has gone.
I don't know, I have heard it said the number would have to be multiplied three times, or something of that kind, as to the number that was agreed first; but I am not sure.
Q. Charles W. Bailey, Minneapolis Tribune: Mr. President, earlier this year the Secretary of Agriculture indicated that a wheat bill raising price supports in any way would not fall within the guide lines you set down in your message. More recently Republican leaders have come away from meetings at the White House, including one meeting at which you were present, with the impression that it might be possible to have some small increase in wheat price supports in order to get a new piece of legislation this year. I wonder if you could help us out with your view on that.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am against higher price supports because the only effect I can see of them is that we put more and more wheat in storage; we have surpluses that overhang the market, depress prices, and make the problem much greater--greater and more severe.
Now, if there were any kind of reasonable plan, connected with other features of the thing that could bring something about that seemed to be reasonable and fair to the farmers, well, I would be glad to look at it. As I say, if it looks reasonable to me, I will approve it; because I am just to this point: I know that we are in a bad fix, the farmers are, and I have had correspondence recently with some of my farmer friends, individuals, to get statistics. I must say that it is one, though, that when you take all of the intricacies of actual problems affecting so many humans in such a great industry and then mix that up with politics you have got something that is very difficult indeed to solve.
Q. Richard E. Mooney, New York Times: Mr. President, Senator Bush has said that he has been advised by the White House that Mr. Connole will not be reappointed to the Federal Power Commission. You have received several representations on behalf of Mr. Connole's reappointment, most recently from a group of Mayors. Could you tell us first, are you not going to reappoint Mr. Connole; and second, why?
THE PRESIDENT. First--why--this: because it is my responsibility to appoint people and to get the best people I can. Mr. Connole came to see one of my staff in December to ask about his reappointment, and they said they'd look into it. I think I can get a better man, that's all.
Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Mr. President, in his speech yesterday in Baku, Mr. Khrushchev repeated the threats which the Camp David communiqué was intended to remove. Now my question is whether you intend to let it stand where it is or will you communicate with him about the Baku speech?
THE PRESIDENT. I have made no particular decision on the point.
Q. Lillian Levy, National Jewish Post and Opinion: President Nasser recently stated that the Suez would remain closed to Israel's ships and shipping and that he has reached no understanding on this matter with you and Secretary General Hammarskjold. Under your leadership, sir, the 1956 Suez crisis was resolved; at that time the United States again reaffirmed the broad principle of free access through the Suez for all nations and expressed its faith that Nasser would uphold this principle.
Since Nasser has rejected it, are you considering now personal intervention, and do you have any reason to believe that your intervention would be less successful today than it was in '56?
THE PRESIDENT. I did say exactly what you said in 1956. Mr. Nasser has given as his reason for doing nothing since that time that they are in a state of war, that this doesn't apply.
Now, I don't know what you can do unless you want to resort to force in such affairs, and I'm certain that we're not trying to settle international problems with force. We have done everything we could to make it clear that we stand by our commitments and we think that other nations should do the same, particularly when it comes to the free use of the Suez Canal. But, I don't know that there is any idea whatsoever of making a new step in this direction or new argument, because I think it's all been said.
Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and eighty-fourth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:28 to 11 o'clock on Wednesday morning, April 27, 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/234196