Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

February 25, 1959

THE PRESIDENT. I have one short announcement this morning. When I was at Acapulco, with President Lopez Mateos, I invited him to come to the United States sometime at his convenience; he has accepted, to come sometime in the spring, although details of dates and so. on are not yet determined. That's all.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, do you believe that it is worth while trying to negotiate with the Russians when Khrushchev informally rejects the idea of a foreign ministers conference on Germany, apparently without any advance notice to Macmillan at the very time he is in Moscow for talks on such matters?

And does this development raise doubts in your mind as to whether an eventual summit meeting would accomplish anything?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Arrowsmith, we have at this minute exactly the same questions to answer that we have been trying to get good answers for for a long time--even prior to the time of my coming to this Office.

Now, the obviously, palpably, intransigent attitude of Mr. Khrushchev is, of course, not only--it has not only been well known, but it seems really to be emphasized. And at the moment when the logical purpose of Mr. Macmillan's visit was to try to create an atmosphere in which negotiations would be possible, this development is not one that, certainly, you could call hopeful.

This is the only logical attitude that the United States, and the West, as I see it, can take: first, that we are not going to give one single inch in the preservation of our rights, and of discharging our responsibility in this particular region, especially Berlin.

There can be no negotiation on this particular point of right, and of retention of responsibility.

Now, the United States has always made dear, we are always ready to negotiate when the other person will give us the slightest area or region in which to negotiate; but if there is to be a positive answer and a negative answer to give to any question before you do attempt to negotiate, then I can't see very much use for conferences. Indeed, if the same kind of attitude is shown insistently and always, why, I must say the future doesn't seem to hold much promise for negotiation.

Now this, in spite of the fact that there have been a number of things that have occurred. You will recall way back, there was a refusal to negotiate respecting the reunification of Austria. Well, that was accomplished. And down the road with respect to West Germany and so on, there have been other concessions; but they certainly come very rarely and from our viewpoint, at least, the refusals are so illogical that they do not promise a great deal for the establishment of a just peace. But, as I say, we have got to be ready, alert to opportunities to negotiate when there is any real promise of success, just as we are going to be strong and are strong and alert in making certain that others cannot take advantage of us or divide us by any kind of threat.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press International: Mr. President, in this same vein there have been talks or reports from Moscow recently, talks of nonaggression pacts between Russia and certain other nations.

Do you have any reason to believe, sir, that a nonaggression pact with Soviet Russia today, without some element of control or inspection would have any more durability, validity, or value than agreements reached with Soviet Russia at Yalta, Potsdam, and Geneva?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Smith, Mr. Dulles and I have always taken this position with respect to nonaggression pacts: everybody that is signatory to the United Nations agreement has already signed those pacts and therefore we see no need for them.

Now, on the other hand, I do not suppose we would have any great objection if there were in fact what you refer to as possibilities, practical possibilities for achieving confidence on each side that these treaties or this special treaty, rather than the general treaty, would be effectively carried out. And until you do have that kind of confidence coming out of some practical self-enforcing feature of the treaty, why then it would seem to me that they would have very little value.

Q. Rod MacLeish, Westinghouse Broadcasting Company: Sir, Khrushchev seems to be trying to get a summit conference instead of a foreign minister conference.

Does this parliamentary or procedural difference change make any difference to us?

THE PRESIDENT. I would say this: all of you people are quite well acquainted with the constitutional difficulties that a President incurs when he goes abroad for one of these long conferences. But on top of that, there is this very great psychological reason: when the people of the world understand there is going to be a head of state or a head of government summit conference, they expect something to come out of it; and a feeling of pessimism and, in a way, hopelessness, I think, would be increased if you entered such a meeting and then nothing real came out of it as indeed, was the case at Geneva.

There was a great deal of talk about the spirit of Geneva, but frankly, before we went there, while we were there, and afterward, our Government said one thing: the proof of the sanity and the value of this Geneva meeting was going to be shown within the next few months when we went down to the concrete problems. And there we went over in October--the foreign ministers did--and we got exactly zero progress.

Now, I think it would be a very grave mistake to go to a summit conference unless there was some kind of preparation so that you could know the world could recognize the progress made.

Q. Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, the Geneva talks on suspending nuclear tests have been dragging now for several months with the Russians seeming to insist upon a veto of the control system. Does the administration see any prospects of an agreement on that issue?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, frankly, I would say that hopes are not as strong as they were in the past.

We have, as you know, been quite ready to concede anything that did not seem to us absolutely needful in this regard. For example, at first we thought we should make any agreement about the cessation of tests a part of a major effort to reach general, or to begin general disarmament agreements.

Well, we said that isn't necessary, and so we receded from that. But we do say this: first, you cannot have a veto in any part of this process from the establishment of the control council right on down to the right of the groups to inspect the suspected areas at any moment. Any time you have a veto, the thing is defeated, and therefore what you might call the right, the inherent right of the parties to this agreement to make certain what has happened, if there is any physical evidence that something has happened, that right must be untrammeled.

That is what we have always insisted upon. In fact, it's a part of the basic feature we have always insisted upon. There must be some kind of substantive proof that we are each doing exactly what he promises to do. That's all there is to it.

And I'll tell you this: frankly, we very, very definitely want some kind of an agreement. We want to ease the tensions of the world, and I don't intend to make provocative speeches anywhere. I don't think it is good. But I do say this: we are going to be just as firm as anyone can be in maintaining the rights and the positions that we know are agreed upon, either in treaty or just in conformance with normal human decency.

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: This question is on a domestic problem, the matter of inflation.

Senator Kefauver has proposed that the steel industry forego a price increase if the steel union limits its wage demands to an amount equal to the average increase in productivity. I'd like to know what you think about that proposal.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have not heard this particular one before.

Now, I have always urged that wage increases should be measured by increase of productivity, and I think that there would be no inflationary effect if they were measured by that criterion.

Now, exactly what the steel companies would have to have in this regard, it is possible they wouldn't have to have any increased price; I am talking a little bit out of my depth here because I am not an economist, but it looks to me like they wouldn't really have to have an increased cost if this wage drive was measured only by that single criterion. I don't think the cost then should be any greater.

But, I will say this: we shouldn't be so prone, I think, to talk about and decry profits in our economy. You must remember that the people now expect all sorts of services from the Federal Government, starting with that of national defense and right on down to the last item that you want to find in HEW. We tax largely profits. We don't tax industrial activity as such, we tax profits. That is what the income tax is. So, if you are trying to get profits down to zero, you are going to have to find some other way of finding Federal revenue, ladies and gentlemen, if we are going to run this Government, I assure you.

Q. Felix Belair, New York Times: Mr. President, do you know from Mr. Dulles' doctors or otherwise whether there is a point at which you can determine, or the doctors, whether he will be able to resume full-time responsibility for the State Department?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh yes. There will come a point about this, and it will largely come between Mr. Dulles and myself. And I want to tell you this: don't think that Mr. Dulles wants a job--not by any manner of means. I have tried to make everybody see that here is a question of a man's dedication to duty and his loyalty to America.

Now, if he ever comes to the point that he cannot be restored to that degree of health where it will allow him to go and carry on his functions without hinder, as imposed by his physical condition, I know I couldn't possibly keep him.

There is no man that I admire and respect and like more than I do Mr. Dulles. But when it comes to that point, if it does, and I think all of us here of good heart would pray that it never comes, he is going to make that decision, make no mistake.

Q. Mr. Belair: Is there any indication when that time may come, I mean?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, when we found it the first time, we said it would be some weeks. Now, after all, I've forgotten the exact time that they said that this intensive period of treatment goes on. I think it will be shortly after that intensive treatment. Of course, after that, I think he would have to have some rest, because from what I understand, these things are not easy to take over the long period.

I must say this: he is reacting remarkably and the doctors are quite pleased with his progress today.

Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: Have you made any arrangements, sir, for direct consultations with Mr. Macmillan after he has concluded his talks in Moscow?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I haven't made any definite arrangements. When he went there, there was some implication, understood implication, that he might find it necessary to report and discuss his findings and reactions in different capitals; he might even want to come here, but there has been nothing planned definitely.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. President, you have had several private talks that we know of with Senator Lyndon Johnson. Have you had similar talks with Speaker Rayburn, or is there a special area in which you need to talk to Senator Johnson?

THE PRESIDENT. The only time, I think, that you have to talk with the Leader of the Senate more than you do with the Speaker, is because you have the whole thing of confirmations and of treaties, and therefore a somewhat more intimate relationship to the whole business of foreign negotiation and activity. I think those would be the only places. And I must say, both these men, let's remember, are not only warm personal friends, but I think all of us have a common pride, understood by any other Texan, that we were all born in Texas. [Laughter] So I don't think there is any intimation whatsoever of differentiation, but it does happen in this one field you have more opportunities.

Q. Mrs. Craig: May I say the appropriations and taxes, of course, begin in the House.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, but let me say this, too: it's very definitely a congressional thing to tax and to appropriate the money.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post: Mr. President, this is a political question.

In your talk down at the National Press Club, you said that you could but would not give us a list of a half a dozen, ten, or a dozen men, fine, virile men, you described them, whom you would be glad to support for the Republican nomination for President.

THE PRESIDENT. No. I said support for election. Someone would have to nominate, because I said I would support them for election.

Q. Mr. Folliard: Well, that is weeks ago, and only two men are now talked about seriously for the Republican nomination. Do you think these, any of these 12 that you talked about will emerge, surface, so to speak? Would you encourage them to emerge? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know of anyone that can do the job better than you people here.

This is what I believe--now, make no mistake, I am carefully avoiding saying that I am for or against anybody. But I do believe this: a political party has a certain facade, sort of, a certain face that becomes recognized. And I think that some of the features of this face have been distorted in popular conviction and imagination unfairly. I believe that we want a whole group of people that are dedicated to progress, to advancement both for our people, our economy, and our standing in the Nation, who are strong and can carry that kind of a policy and at the same time believe that we can destroy ourselves by unwise taxation, spending, and other economic features--we must not weaken ourselves that way.

Now that's the kind of a group that I'd like to see forming what I would call the facade of my particular political party.

Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, the American Bar Association house of delegates in Chicago yesterday said that in view of the number of Supreme Court decisions on subversion that Congress should pass new laws tightening things up in this field.

Do you feel that gaps have been opened in this field by Supreme Court decisions and that new legislation is needed?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Burd, I am not lawyer enough to say where, if any of these occur, they can be filled by legislation, and what other action would have to be taken, would be necessary.

I do want to establish my position that I have to take the law--and I want to repeat this again--I have to take the law as it's interpreted by the Supreme Court, and that is the law of the land that I am called upon by oath to enforce.

Now, just what can be done, let's say, in spite of or because of Supreme Court decisions by the Congress itself to change that law, I am just not enough of a lawyer to know.

Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown Times: Mr. President, the award by the Tennessee Valley Authority of a steam turbine contract to a British firm has aroused quite a bit of sentiment both in Congress and a number of localities around the country where heavy equipment is manufactured for restrictions on imports of this particular type of equipment.

Do you see any danger, sir, if this kind of outcry continues that Great Britain might decide to cut back on its recent liberalization of dollar trade?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, this calls, you might say, for a repetition of speeches that I have been trying to make for a long, long time.

I believe we have got to look at the welfare of all America. Now, ideally, we know that in each country in the world, the country ought to produce that thing for which itself is best suited and where its market is the most available. And then, it should buy those things it doesn't produce so well and sell these things in which it has great efficiency.

But all sorts of political bars have been produced through the years, and even the centuries, to impair the flow of trade that would come about because of a faithful adherence to this generalization. There are tariffs, there are cartels, there are quotas, there is every kind of thing in the world monopolies. There is governmental purchase and selling, as opposed to a free enterprise system of buying and selling.

We are therefore not caught in an idealistic situation where you start, de novo, to solve a thing, you have to take the world as it now is. I believe that above everything else the United States should keep its cost down and try to liberalize trade. I believe that the reason we are having so much trouble competing with the other producing countries, not only within the neutral markets like Mexico, I think I gave you an example of that not long ago, but right here at home, we can't compete with them. Our costs are just too high. We cannot continue to increase these costs and have the kind of foreign trade that will make our own country prosperous.

Now, this means, of course, if you follow this thing in principle, you create different areas or particular points of difficulty. This is bad. We have got to take care of it, because these things have happened, again, by laws in the past. It's the whole purpose, though, of the Reciprocal Trade Act, not only started concretely in the time of Secretary Hull, but you go back to the time of McKinley and find that his finest speech was on reciprocal trade.

Everybody knows it must be done. The problem is, how do you get rid of the tremendous difficulties in order to make this reciprocal trade effective?

Now, here I think if we give way to the idea of just increasing tariffs along the line, and that is what you are implying by this question, I just believe we are making the gravest mistake we could make.

Q. Garnett D. Homer, Washington Star: Do you have any report, sir, on the condition of General Marshall, who is ill in North Carolina?

THE PRESIDENT. All I can say, Mr. Homer, is I keep in touch with General Marshall's condition daily, through the doctors at Walter Reed and my own doctor. And there is this, that with this second stroke he had, no question that it is a very, very serious illness; but so far as I can determine from the way they talk to me, he is progressing satisfactorily-satisfactorily is probably not the word; as good as could be expected. Now, I don't know that any of them have made any prognosis for me, but they are watching. That's all that I can say.

Q. John Scali, Associated Press '. Another question on Secretary Dulles, sir.


Q. Mr. Scali: During the past few days several Democratic Senators have suggested that you promptly replace Secretary Dulles with a successor. What do you think of such a suggestion?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'll try to be mild. [Laughter]

I would say this: those men, such as Senator Mansfield, Senator Sparkman, Senator Kennedy, Senator Capehart, who have publicly recognized the great value of Secretary Dulles to the United States and who have expressed very prayerfully their great hope that he will be spared to go on with this work, and that we can make arrangements until he can be so spared, if his health will permit, I think they are thinking of nothing but the welfare of the United States of America.

Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Would you discuss with us, sir, the strategy in central Europe of how we do defend our rights in Berlin?

THE PRESIDENT. I can say this only: this is a matter that has been under discussion, under agreements by the several allies involved. It has been, of course, a part of the NATO discussions and decisions. I believe that the plans that they have made have never been published, so I couldn't talk about any details. But I can say this: that so far as I know, so far as any bit of information has ever come to me, all of these countries stand with us in the absolute necessity of being firm and defending those rights.

I can't say anything about any definite features of a plan.

Q. Mr. Reston: Is it proper to infer from that, sir, that you would believe if we were stopped from going into Berlin that the treaty, the NATO treaty would be invoked at that point?

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't say--no, I don't know that. I said this, I believe, here only last week or maybe it was two weeks ago: that so far as we were concerned, any act of actual war would have to be started, committed by someone else.

Now, that's the place where we stand.

Q. Sarah McClendon, Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader: Mr. President, since your budget came out many of the military experts have gone to the Capitol and they have testified; there have been great discrepancies in their testimony as to whether we have adequate defense.

Since that has come about, is there not some way to avoid public confidence being undermined and in view of the international situation, is there not some way that we can get these leaders and yourself to arrive at a reconciliation of views as to what we actually need for defense?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'm a little astonished at that question. I have been, certainly, all my life in this same problem. For the last 6 years I have had the final responsibility so far as the executive department and my position as Commander in Chief are concerned.

Now, very naturally there are conflicting views in any proposal that humans make. I would doubt that you could find any three people sitting in this room who, with respect to their idea of the way a newspaper ought to be operated, would give you identical views. [Laughter]

Now, you are certainly not going to get such identical views in people who, themselves, believe that in their service, in their own function, lies the safety of the United States. Someone has to make the decision. That happens to be the Commander in Chief.

I must say this, and I think possibly this is the first time that I have ever violated my own conception of humility and modesty: I think I am more able than any one of those individuals of whom you speak to make an overall decision on behalf of the United States in this vital matter, because I again assure you that just spending money does not make us stronger. Indeed, if you spend too much money, you will make us weaker. That is when the nicety of judgment comes in--what do we need; get that; get that by all means, and get no more.

Remember, our system is a balanced one. We should not concern ourselves so much with one single item. Somebody makes a demagogic talk about a missile, or somebody else about a different submarine or a piece of radar. You have got a whole level of balanced types of equipment, training, organization, and strategy that we believe fits our system.

As a matter of fact, just 2 or 3 nights ago Admiral Burke made a speech somewhere, I believe in Carolina, on this subject, and I thought it was indeed good.

Q. Charles W. Baily, Minneapolis Star and Tribune: A group of North Dakotans are down here today to talk to you about an irrigation project in their State. I wondered if you could tell us, does your "no new starts" policy--not starting any new construction of reclamation projects--does that extend to the withholding by the administration of reports from the Interior Department on the feasibility of future projects?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, no. As a matter of fact, I have not only always urged studies, but a long time ago I got a Special Assistant, General Bragdon, and his whole purpose is to go over the whole field of public works in which the Federal Government participates. Indeed, he meets with the planning commissions and officers of each of the States in their conferences so as to coordinate these things so we can get the best value out of them.

But, to stop studying analyses or reports from the Interior, that would be the last thing I would ever think of.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and fifty-second news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:30 to 11:04 o'clock on Wednesday morning, February 25, 1959. In attendance: 229.

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/235248

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