The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. Good morning. I am ready for questions.
Q. Merriman Smith, United Press International: Mr. President, the Cuban Premier, Fidel Castro, recently has stepped up the character and intensity of his attacks on the United States, and the American Government is apparently very concerned about this, as reflected in your meeting yesterday with Secretary Herter and Ambassador Bonsal.
What, if anything, can you do about this situation, Mr. President? Do you feel that specific action is required by the American Government to preserve its position against these Castro attacks?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, you are perfectly correct. We are concerned and, more than that, we are perplexed. We don't know really the foundation of these accusations that are made not only by the Prime Minister but appear in the publications in Cuba.
Now, we have had these conferences with Secretary Herter and Ambassador Bonsal, trying to understand more about the motives and what they are really hoping to do. Over the last 2 days, now, with Mr. Herter and Mr. Bonsal, we have prepared a written restatement of our policy, as of now, concerning Cuba. It's in written form and you will get it.
[Addresses Mr. Hagerty] Where is it?
Mr. Hagerty: Outside.
THE PRESIDENT. Outside?
Mr. Hagerty: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. Right outside the door. You can get a copy.
So it explains our position and exactly what our policy is in the circumstances. 1
1See Item 22.
Q. J. Anthony Lewis, New York Times: Mr. President, in your State of the Union Message you made reference to the Civil Rights Commission proposals and said they deserved a thorough study. Since then, the Attorney General has been studying them and reportedly thinking of some alternative ideas. Do you have anything now that you can say about the proposals?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. The Attorney General has another plan that he thinks, within the framework of existing law, will improve very much the procedures that have been followed. It is somewhat technical-exactly what the jurisdiction and the action possible for judges to take. So I would suggest, to get the thing exactly so it is not subject to misinterpretation, you should go to him; because it is a legalistic amendment that it would be difficult for me to describe in detail.
Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: Mr. President, the last few days there has been some dispute over Secretary Gates with reference to estimates of Soviet military capabilities, and he has expressed the idea that we have changed our estimate from one based on capability to one based on intention. Could you tell us whether you, yourself, have had a part in this? Could you give us your thinking as a soldier on the reliability of an estimate that takes intentions into consideration?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't think it's exactly correct--what you are now giving as a premise of your question. There was a premise to the effect that you just now suggest contained in a question put to Mr. Gates; he rather ignored that, and therefore his statements were subject to misinterpretation. Certainly his meaning was subject to misinterpretation.
Frankly, what is really happening is that we have better estimates than we had in the past in this field.
Let me call your attention to a little bit of history. Only 3 or 4 years ago there was a great outcry about the alleged bomber gap in favor of the Russians, and there was a great deal of talk about it and, actually, I think we got more--a billion dollars or something like that, $900 million more--for bombers that year than I asked for. Subsequent intelligence investigation showed that that estimate was wrong and that, far from stepping up their production of bombers, the Soviets were diminishing it or even eliminating that production.
Now, I think that we should never talk about an argument between intention and capability. Both of these things are, of course, necessary when you are making any intelligence estimate.
Let me point this out: we've got all of the power that would be necessary to destroy a good many countries. We have no intention of using it. And the whole world knows that.
We also know a number of things about the Soviets. Naturally we think that our intentions, stated intentions, are more trustworthy than those of people hostile to us.
I do say that this whole business of intelligence, of producing intelligence and an intelligence estimate, is a very intricate and a very complex thing. You cannot take any one basis, any one channel of thought, to make a proper estimate on which a government or a commander can act.
I would just say this: I think that Mr. Gates will find ways of clarifying exactly what he meant; because, in my opinion, he is a very splendid civil servant.
Q. William McGaffin, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, in view of the international prestige at stake, why are we not moving with a greater sense of urgency to catch up with Russia in the field of space exploration?
THE PRESIDENT. JUST start at that again. How did you start it, how did you start that question?
Q. Mr. McGaffin: I said, in view of the international prestige at stake.
THE PRESIDENT. Is it?
Q. Mr. McGaffin: Well, sir, do you not feel that it is?
THE PRESIDENT. Not particularly, no. We have got a record in 5 years in space exploration that is not only admirable, but I think is one to be proud of.
The Soviets have made some very spectacular achievements, but I don't think that we should begin to bow our heads in shame, because in a few years we have gotten up and gone past them in many fields of this work, when they have been working on it ever since 1945.
So I would think that once in a while we ought just to remember that our country is not asleep, and it is not incapable of doing these things; indeed, we are doing them.
Now, I don't deny that this spectacular achievement more excites the public imagination than does the good, hard, steady work of the scientists that are keeping satellites in the air and getting from them information all the time. It is more spectacular, and it has more effect on the casual reader. But in the actual examination of these two programs, I think we've got a pretty good record.
Q. Felix Belair, New York Times: Mr. President, since we last met, the former British Prime Minister, Mr. Eden, has had another recollection, this one about Suez. And he says that the decision to go into Suez by Britain and France was made in June, or many months before the October going in, and that you, sir, were privy to that decision.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't like to comment on memoirs. As I have said, I think, here several times, Mr. Eden is a very good friend of mine, been one for years, and I had great confidence in him.
Now I do recall this about the decision--or not decision, the action at Suez. As a matter of fact, I'll tell you one or two footnotes of history that might be interesting. I made it clear that the United States was going to stand by its interpretation of United Nations policy and the Charter. This meant that we would apply this to anybody, those that we thought our closest friends as well as those that we thought were in another category.
At about this time--I have forgotten just exactly at what time the invasion started--
Q. Mr. Belair: October, wasn't it?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, sometime in early October, Mr. Eban was going back to Israel for a short time. He came in to see me. And I told him I'd hoped that he would not allow any misinterpretation of sentiment in this country to sway him. Particularly because of possible Jewish sympathy for what seemed to be an intention building up around the mobilization of Israel at that time, I hoped he would not allow this to sway his judgment as to what this administration would do in doing its very best to prevent any outbreak of hostilities and the, you might say, settlement of international issues by force.
I told him that if he thought that this would have any iota of influence on the election or that that would have any influence on me, he should disabuse his mind about it.
In addition to that, both Foster Dulles and I went to great pains to show to Britain and to France what we would do under that set of circumstances. As far as the decision itself was concerned, for the 2 weeks just prior to the action, Foster Dulles told me, there wasn't a single item that came in from the British Foreign Office; as a matter of fact, he referred to it as "a blackout of news."
Now, that is all I recall from this time.
I am not trying to impugn anybody else's memory or anybody's interpretation of the facts as they were then. We had telephone calls--transatlantic--in order to try to keep this thing on the rails. But that was our own attitude; that I know.
Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Mr. President, two other points on Mr. Belair's question.
First, were there recordings of the telephone calls back and forth between Washington and London at that time; and, secondly, are you putting in train any kind of historical, orderly way of gathering the historical material of the last 8 years together?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, you know, Mr. Reston, for a good many years I've tried personally to keep a diary. And every evening I find that I have been a little-bit too tired, and I was going to do it tomorrow morning.
Some of these calls were occasionally from my own room. It just struck me that I'd better get hold of Mr. Eden or someone else and talk to him, Mr. Churchill, or someone. I cannot recall for sure whether I always came back and gave the gist--I'm sure I always told it verbally to Secretary Dulles.
Now, as far as it can be done through my official acts, and even in conversations, there is an orderly record made. For example, one of the types of correspondence that is going to the Presidential Library that will be built to take my papers will be Foster Dulles' personal notations of the conversations between ourselves, because that was a personal thing between him and me. All the others of his papers, as you know, are going to the Dulles Wing of the Princeton Library, as they properly should. He himself made that decision, and it is in his will. And his executors have the direction to keep those.
There are a thousand other things we keep over here in the White House. The Secretary, and my own personal secretary, people like that, keep a record. The trouble is it gets so voluminous until you get experts to winnow it down, it's going to be a very difficult thing to do.
Q. Mr. Reston: How far did you get with that diary, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. Me?
Q. Mr. Reston: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT. I started, as I recall, in Panama in 1921, and I found that, from time to time, as I looked back, oh, I'd find three or four notes over the period of 5 years; and I decided that it wasn't very much. [Laughter]
Q. Harold R. Levy, Newsday: Sir, aside from any thought of economic reprisal against Cuba, it has been suggested that our present sugar quota system should be dropped, or at least modified, to permit free competition among producing nations. Do you think such a step would be feasible or desirable?
THE PRESIDENT. As I say, I refer you to my statement as to what our policy is.
But I do want to say this: the American people still have the greatest affection and the greatest interest in the Cuban people. We are not going to be party to reprisals or anything of that kind. At this moment it is not our time to do it, and certainly we are not going to intervene in their internal affairs. But when you read the whole statement, if you have further questions, why, come back to the next press conference and I'll be glad to try to answer them.
Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, Mr. Gates has said that he did not make the intelligence decisions and he was not a member of the United States Intelligence Board which uses this intent, or approach. And then when we went to get the names of the U.S. Intelligence Board, we were told that two members had recently been added, about the time, I believe, they started making this new type of approach. But we couldn't get the names. Don't you think that the American people have the right to know who is making these decisions that may affect their security?
THE PRESIDENT. I hadn't thought of this question at all. I'll ask--
Q. Mrs. McClendon: Well, could you ask them to get those names?
THE PRESIDENT. No, no; I won't say that. I'll just ask them what the procedure is.
Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: The joint congressional committee on your Economic Report has made a voluminous study and report which differs somewhat from your Economic Report. This brings up the question of your National Goals Commission, because they apparently established some goals. What is the status of your Goals Commission, and will they make a similar study?
THE PRESIDENT. The study I am talking about is, first of all, to be bipartisan, and that I could not say for the kind of economic report to which you have just referred. This is to be bipartisan, done by scholars and experienced people. I hope that, at long last, we've gotten the thing on the rails and it will get to business. I am disappointed that its report necessarily will not be available in the time that I would hope it could have been, but it has been a long-term job getting it done.
Now, I just point out about this report 1 which I hear is coming out this noon: always before, it has been the practice that, after the Joint Economic Committee gets the President's report and recommendation, they hold hearings; and then they make a report. Well, they're doing it this time without hearings, apparently.
1Senate Report 1152, 86th Congress (Government Printing Office, 1960).
Q. Rutherford M. Poats, United Press International: Sir, while we appreciate that you have not announced, and therefore presumably not made your plans as to additional travel in the Far East, I wonder whether you can tell us now what your thinking is about the desirability and your own personal hopes as to whether you can extend your travels to visit some of the other countries which have invited you in that area.
THE PRESIDENT. This is a big point: time. How can you, during the time that the Congress is in session, how can you so stretch this time as not to get into difficulty in your own country?
Now, we have jet planes and all that sort of thing, but let us take this one point. A bill comes in; frequently, although I am kept informed while I am here what is going on, I have to sign it or refuse to sign it in a matter of 2 hours before the final minute for the action. If I'm gone too long, I run into the difficulty of not having the benefit of that kind of consultation and, therefore, my own constitutional duties are to that extent neglected.
While I can make certain provisions, and always have been able to do so, to hold some of these bills before they leave the Capitol and come to the White House, this is not a process that ought to be usual. And so the thing becomes a question of time.
Naturally, as long as I am going to be in the Far East, I should like to go to a number of places. Some of the people are old friends of mine. But the visit that I talked about was made possible only by the authority of the Soviet Government to permit my leaving it by the eastern exit. That makes it possible for me to go at least to Tokyo. 1
Beyond that, I haven't studied the thing in detail.
1On January 17 the White House announced that as a result of personal exchanges between the President and Chairman Khrushchev it had been agreed that the President would visit the Soviet Union June 10-19, 1960. On January 20 the White House announced that the President would visit Japan about June 20. On April 12 a further release stated that the President's visit to Japan would take place June 19-23, and that he would make a brief visit to Korea on June 22.
Q. Spencer Davis, Associated Press: Mr. President, further along that line, is there a possibility of a second trip out to the Far East when time permits?
THE PRESIDENT. You know one thing--come next July there is no one going to be interested in what my visits are, either you people or anybody else. [Laughter]
Q. Donald H. Shannon, Los Angeles Times: Going back to Mr. McGaffin's question about space exploration, Mr. President, you distinguished between space exploration and defense in your State of the Union Message, but a great many people feel that the subjects are not really distinguishable. I wonder if you could say something along your--your views, how you divide them up?
THE PRESIDENT. I doubt that I can say anything more than I said in my State of the Union Message, because I assure you that I worked 3 months on that, and it represents my very definite, fixed conclusion. These things are different. They are for different purposes.
Now, no one has ever denied that if the Defense Department can find some space activity that can contribute to its defense, well, quite naturally, we'd exploit it. But the difference between space activity as such and defense is really quite marked, and not nearly as confused as it is, for example, between, say, Air Force and Navy and the Navy and the Army, and all of the three of them put together.
Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, I'd like to get back to your earlier answer to the question about civil rights. Without getting into the technicalities of what the Attorney General is working on, is the alternative that he is proposing an alternative to the Federal registrars proposal or to the civil rights bill that now is bottled up in the House Rules Committee?
THE PRESIDENT. Oh no, he's not making--we stand by the recommendations we've already made. But he thinks he's got a scheme that will make the insurance of the voting right more firm, and that is the thing you should talk to him about so then you know exactly what he's got in mind.
Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. President, our railroads complain that they suffer from competition with Government-subsidized shipping, aviation, highway transport. Now, if we are planning to put the Minuteman and other solid fuel missiles on railroad cars as mobile launching pads, how are we going to save the railroads from being ruined by this competition and not here when we need them?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I thought your question was a pretty good one until you got the Minuteman in it. [Laughter] No one knows exactly how those things will happen now.
No one could be more concerned than I am about the railroads. I think that they are governed by antiquated laws and regulations; and, frankly, I think some of the trouble is their own.
In the great golden days of the seventies and early eighties, when everybody could get rich by either building a railroad or pretending he was going to and selling stock--if you will read in some of the parts of those late sixties and early seventies, you will find it mostly scandal--well, everybody wanted an independent railroad. I think our railroad systems are proliferated into so many different independent things--of course, everybody likes to be president, don't forget that--so you've got these things that are not always economic and efficient. But even allowing for that, I believe we ought to have a real overhaul of all the regulations and the controls, and give them a chance to be prosperous.
I guess 4 years ago now, I had a Cabinet meeting that proposed, in a transportation report, just something of that order. As a matter of fact, my transportation committee remains alive.
I am all for some reform in this whole thing in the railroads, I assure you.
Q. Thomas N. Schroth, Congressional Quarterly: Speaking of next July, sir, last Saturday the Democrats had a great many attacks to make on your administration, and particularly on Vice President Nixon. One of them called him a "juvenile delinquent." Do you care to comment on the remarks of the Democrats last Saturday?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I couldn't comment except to laugh.
Q. William H. Y. Knighton, Jr., Baltimore Sun: Mr. President, at the last press conference, you yourself raised a very interesting point when you suggested that we get an opinion whether a second term President should run for Vice President.
THE PRESIDENT. Not "should"--I said "could."
Q. Mr. Knighton: Could--yes, sir; could. We can't get an official opinion in our status, but you can. Have you, and if you can run, will you? [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. I'll tell you this much--I'll be more like these nonrunning candidates; I'll be cagey--the afternoon of that press conference, there was a note on my desk saying a report from the Justice Department--I don't know whether the Attorney General himself signed this, but the report was, it was absolutely legal for me to do so. That stopped it right there, as far as I'm concerned.
Q. William J. Eaton, United Press International: Mr. President, there was a great deal of criticism of the Taft-Hartley law during the steel dispute. Do you plan to ask Congress to revise the emergency procedures of that law to deal more adequately with major strikes?
THE PRESIDENT. I have asked the Attorney General, the Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Labor, and the Chairman of the Economic Advisers to study this matter thoroughly, so that in some timely fashion, if there is anything I should or could do, I'd like to know.
Q. Lillian Levy, National Jewish Post and Opinion: Mr. President, a clause was written in the last appropriation legislation empowering you to withhold aid to foreign countries which discriminate against American citizens on the basis of race or creed. Are you contemplating taking such action against countries that have continually so discriminated, or do you have another remedy that you think would be more effective?
THE PRESIDENT. I have seen no specific case of this kind brought before me on my desk for a long time, and I'll just have to take a look before I can state what my policy will be, for this reason: these exceptions are written in the law so as to put the specific cases before the President and make him decide whether or not such-and-such a thing is to the best interests of the United States.
Now quite frequently such a decision has to conflict with, you might say, the normal or general policy. You have to do it because of specific cases. That is all I can say, because I don't know the cases you are talking about this morning.
Q. Miss Levy: I was referring specifically to Saudi Arabia, which for several years has discriminated against our citizens.
THE PRESIDENT. I think the recommendation of the State Department would be--I'd stop there and then if they have anything to tell me, why, I'll be glad to take it up again.
Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and seventy-eighth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:31 to 11:01 o'clock on Tuesday morning, January 26, 1960. In attendance: 235.
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/234966