Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

September 17, 1959

THE PRESIDENT. I have no announcement.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press International: Naturally, sir, we are all very interested in your personal impressions of Mr. Khrushchev; but more particularly I would like to ask whether, from your conversations with him thus far and from your knowledge of his statements that he has made since he has been in this country, you see any concrete evidence of a change in his position on the issues that have been dividing the East and West?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think, Mr. Smith, it is a little bit early to talk about these things in detail. Mr. Khrushchev's attitude has been extremely friendly, but so far all the conversations have been confined to, let's say, agreeing on agenda items and to a restatement of general positions.

So I think that until after the conferences at Camp David have been held, it would be both undesirable and unwise to say much more about them.

I repeat that so far as manner and deportment is concerned, his whole attitude is one of seeking some kind of a position that could be agreed.

Q. David Kraslow, Knight Newspapers: Could you tall us, Mr. President, what the agenda will be for the Camp David talks?

THE PRESIDENT. No. No, we agreed to--there is no secret about it for my part, except that we did agree that there was no reason for specifying, because to specify is to limit, and there could be a number of questions that could come up in any case.

Q. Thomas N. Schroth, Congressional Quarterly: Would you please tell us, sir, how you feel Congress dealt with your program this year, and especially with the spending issue?

THE PRESIDENT. Frankly, I have been studying a little bit and actually doing a little drafting on a statement that I might issue in course of the next one or two or three days. I wouldn't mind making one or two comments.

You will have to recall, though, the atmosphere in which the session began. People in the majority, particularly, were predicting a very great prolongation of the recession, and therefore were advancing a number of projects that would be called pump priming in order to bring about recovery.

My own position was that the signs of recovery were all around us, that it was going forward rapidly, and that unnecessary spending should be completely curtailed.

Now there were a number of things that were done during the Congress that were largely in accordance with some of the views I had expressed. For example, I think that there has been a very fine step forward made in correcting abuses by people of evil intent in the labor movement. Things of that kind have been done.

I think the very fiat refusal to take care of the matter of our long-range financing is one of the most serious things that has happened to the United States in my time.

This is something that causes great concern, and it must be in some way or other corrected because we are having too much short-term financing. All that paper is really money, and this means it puts a pressure on the interest rates and the cost of doing business. Also, it of course is another inciting cause for inflation.

One of my most personal, personal and official, disappointments was the disapproval of the nomination of Secretary Strauss.

But by and large there has been a great deal of good accomplished. But I do want to point out this again, that until there is a situation where both Executive and Legislature are controlled by the same party, I believe we cannot fix responsibility and there cannot be really the kind of leadership of the whole Nation that the Nation deserves. I believe it is unfortunate to have that kind of divided control in the Federal Government.

Q. Robert C. Pierpoint, CBS News: Mr. President, I wonder if you could give us your reaction to President de Gaulle's plans for the future of Algeria?

THE PRESIDENT. I read it, but I have not had the opportunity to give complete sympathetic study.

By the way, I wrote down a note on it. I think I would rather read it because this is a very important thing, I think. I had forgotten for a moment I had stuck it in my pocket.

[Reading] While I have read General de Gaulle's speech, I have not been able to give it the careful and sympathetic study it deserves. Therefore I do not want to comment on the details.

I might add that I am quite sure that there will be extremists at each fringe that will disapprove, but that is always the case with any constructive proposal.

It is a far-reaching declaration containing explicit promises of self-determination for the Algerian people and, as such, completely in accord with our hopes to see proclaimed a just and liberal program for Algeria, which we could support. I am greatly encouraged by General de Gaulle's courageous and statesmanlike declaration. It is our hope that it will lead to an early peace. [Ends reading]

And I might add it is a plan that I think is worthy of General de Gaulle's efforts.

Q. William McGaffin, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, Mr. Khrushchev has said that he is going to make a proposal on disarmament at the United Nations tomorrow. You have expressed your views before many times on the basic essentials of any disarmament agreement which we could seriously consider. Could you restate those for us at this point?

THE PRESIDENT. Of course, the basic principle is that we are of the conviction, first of all, that mutual disarmament, universal disarmament, is really the one great hope of the world living in peace in the future years. We believe that no disarmament proposal can be considered as a practical one or as being contributory to progress toward peace unless it is self-enforcing, unless there is a regulatory kind of action that makes sure that everybody knows that the agreement is being observed.

Now within this particular limitation and the other one, that disarmament is mutual and equivalent or fair to both sides, we have no particular conditions to apply, because we have proposed several times general plans and special plans that we thought would have some effect or at least constitute a small step toward the ultimate objective. But within the limits that I just specified, we will talk about anything.

Q. Lambert Brose, Lutheran Layman: Mr. President, with millions of Americans seeing Mr. Khrushchev on TV, and noting his apparent conviction and sincerity when he speaks, and also at times his friendliness, warmth of personality, do you think that some Americans might get the idea, well, he is a pretty good fellow after all, and perhaps insidiously their general feeling of opposition to the whole idea of communism might become weak, and that they might become psychologically disarmed?

THE PRESIDENT. I think our whole civilization, the whole theory of free government, is based upon the right of anyone to present his views in any way he pleases to the American public.

I think the American public is strong enough to see and hear this man or any other man, and capable of making their own decisions.

Now, after all, when you are talking about communism versus freedom, you are talking down at the very depths of conviction in the hearts of free men. I do not believe that master debaters or great appearances of sincerity or anything else are going to fool the American people long.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post: Mr. President, from time to time you have said that there is no alternative to peace, that a great war would be stupid, crazy. Mr. Khrushchev seems to be talking pretty much along the same line.

Do you think he really shares your horror of a great war?

THE PRESIDENT. Frankly, I believe that is the one thing that he does agree with us very fully. But you must remember what kind of a government we are and how responsive that government is to people, and people are the ones that are responsible for this great feeling of horror against this useless destruction.

So the mere fact that you agree with some particular obvious truth of this kind, of the futility of committing mutual suicide or something of that kind, the fact is that there is still room for a lot of misunderstanding, a lot of miscalculation which could be very serious.

But I must say that the understanding of this one great truth, you might say, in this temporal field we are talking about now, is sort of the beginning of all wisdom.

Q. Joseph A. Loftus, New York Times: Mr. President, I have a question about steal. Do you have any information to support the rumor that the steel companies are prepared to yield to further persuasion by you in the matter of appointing a board that would recommend settlement, and do you plan to take further steps?

THE PRESIDENT. What do you mean, "further persuasion"? I have used persuasion here through this microphone and every place I could. But now, lately, because I answered a letter, someone is making all sorts of misrepresentations or misinterpretations of what I said.

Now, if you are talking about the specific letter, I will comment.

Q. Mr. Loftus: Yes, sir, I am.


I had a letter and a man, Mr. Meany, not Mr. McDonald, Mr. Meany asked me to appoint a fact-finding board. I have consistently stated I was not going to interfere in this strike, that it was a thing for free bargaining, and when the Government got into it, we could get into all sorts of arguments of delay and, I think, damaging effects upon the country, because soon people would be talking about the procedures that the Government was applying rather than the basic issues.

So I answered this letter; you will find a sentence, I believe, that says I still don't have any faith in this fact-finding approach. But if both sides approach me and ask for a nongovernmental board, then I will cooperate with them in order to get it established, and then they themselves responsible for providing the financing, all the instructions, the terms of reference, and everything else.

That is the only thing I did--say that I would agree to that; because this, in my belief, is a continuation of free bargaining, and free bargaining is what I want to see. I want to see the basic issues discussed, not the argument as to whether or not there should be a Taft-Hartley Act or a fact board or anything else. I think the basic issues--they should understand them and they should get busy and determine them.

Q. Mr. Loftus: Mr. President, the industry said no. My question to you is, does that end it, as far as you are concerned?

THE PRESIDENT. My letter speaks for itself, absolutely. I am not going to take any part on one side or the other.

Q. Charles H. Mohr, Time Magazine: In reference to an earlier question, Mr. President, do you think that the fact that you are going to be allowed to go to the Soviet Union and speak in public to a people who seldom have much free interchange and to be seen by them as a representative of freedom means that we are getting the best of this bargain on the exchange, and do you also think that the Soviet Government can continue unscathed during a long period of free exchange of this kind?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think I have a great deal of faith in that one Biblical reference somewhere, where it it says, "Know the truth and the truth shall make you free."

Now, we have here, a system of government: it is a system of government, there is no question, that at least the dedicated Communists believe in thoroughly. They believe it is a step, it's a progressive step in the long march of civilization. We do not.

We do not have a real system; we have a way of life. We are concerned in giving every individual the maximum freedom to develop himself, and the Government is really a help, not the complete director of the individual.

So, since we believe that that feeling for freedom, that respect for freedom, love of freedom, is instinctive in men, we do think that the systematized order that is observed in Russia is a step backward, not forward.

Now Mr. Khrushchev believes that as one form of government has succeeded another in this world, he calls it socialism, but socialism or communism is the next step, and a progressive one.

Now whether or not my going there will help or will, let's say, stimulate thinking of people in that region along the lines that we believe in, I can't say.

But I do believe that in the long march of time--he is always saying this: history is going to decide between us.

I believe history, in the long run, is going to decide in favor of the free system.

Q. E. W. Kenworthy, New York Times: Mr. President, there have been reports that you will suggest to Mr. Khrushchev a joint effort, a joint attack on the problems of underdeveloped countries. Are these reports true?

THE PRESIDENT. No. No, that isn't exactly it. I have talked in a number of nations about the responsibility of civilization to see that these undeveloped and newly formed nations are helped, because this is a matter of self-interest for civilization; that unless these things are done, I believe that finally the ferment, the resentment, and finally the anger of such people can set up a very great global struggle.

As of now the United States is a party to a number of international organizations that are devoted to this purpose--the World Bank and the Development Association, which is to be a part of that Bank, under the Bank, the Monetary Fund, the Ex-Im Bank and a number of other things. I have suggested that each of the nations ought to take and study, specifically I asked the head of each of the governments that I just visited recently to study, the matter of cooperation in this matter so that each could take its share of the load.

Now, until there is some kind of peaceful solution of the political differences between ourselves and the Soviets, it is manifest that we couldn't ask them to be partners in any exercise of this kind.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, do you have any comment on the public reception that Mr. Khrushchev has received in this country so far?

THE PRESIDENT. No, not particularly. I thought there were very large crowds out. There were people that were naturally interested in seeing this person, this individual, the head of a government, and a man whose name has been a great deal in the headlines. But to my mind they did show a certain reservation, which is only natural, because all of us have had questions about this whole world situation that causes uneasiness; and I just do not believe that any extreme conviction ought to be expressed one way or the other.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, a lot of people are discussing Mr. Khrushchev's forum that he had yesterday for presenting his attacks on our governmental policy and our system and our basic philosophies.

Do you think when you go to Russia that you will get the same kind of forum, and do you think that, as a guest of that country, that it will be right for you to attack them similarly?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would hesitate to say I would attack anything in that country, for this simple reason. I believe the best way to present a message, if you have it, is to try to do it constructively, to show what America is interested in, what we would like to see the world be, what the issues are that we think are important, and the principles that are important.

I would not think it profitable even if, humanly, once in a while you would like to take that line; I think it would not be profitable to be in the position of attacking.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, has there been time enough for you to study the De Gaulle statement to say whether it will change our position in the United Nations?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I can't say it specifically; no. As a matter of fact, I haven't even discussed it yet with our State Department officials.

Q. Edward V. Koterba, United Features Syndicate: Could you tell us at this time, sir, whether or not Mrs. Eisenhower will accompany you on your tour of Russia?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I hope so, but there's a number of factors that have to be taken into consideration. I couldn't make a definite statement one way or the other.

Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: When the Soviet Chairman was on the Hill yesterday, sir, he turned aside questions about Laos and other countries, on the ground that he had an agreement with you not to discuss third countries. Is there such an agreement as that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think here there must be some kind of misunderstanding brought about by, possibly, faulty interpreting.

I said, I think in a speech and in my original letters, that we would not negotiate on matters affecting third countries or any part of the free world--my allies, I believe I said, or any part of the free world.

Now, manifestly, you cannot have a conversation between the Soviet Government and this Government that does not mention and discuss other countries. You have to. So I think there is some misunderstanding brought about by inadvertence. No, there is no such agreement, because we have to do it.

Q. Mr. Reston: We would be right then in inferring that questions such as Laos and Germany of course would be discussed at Camp David?

THE PRESIDENT. If we don't discuss Berlin, for example, I would have difficulty in seeing why we got together. No, of course we would have to talk about them.

Q. J. F. Ter Horst, Detroit News: Sir, at the same meeting between Premier Khrushchev and the members of the Foreign Relations Committee, one of the Soviet officials said that the State Department's proposed new draft of a program for mutual exchange in the cultural and personal exchange field with Russia was being scaled down by our side. Could you cast any light on that? We had gathered that you were rather in favor of that program, and that it would be expanded.

THE PRESIDENT. And everybody in the State Department that I ever talked to. If someone else is trying to scale something down, I have never heard of it. No, I have been trying to expand, not to scale down.

Q. Benjamin A. Franklin, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, Secretary of Labor Mitchell has been trying by administrative and rule changes in the Labor Department to improve the working and living conditions with some of the two million American migratory farm workers whom the Secretary himself has called forgotten people.

The farmers and growers associations are against the changes, and Secretary Benson backs them. The other day he told Mr. Mitchell in effect to mind his own business. Do you have any comments, sir, on this family quarrel?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I can say this: I have listened to it a great deal. Actually I think it is one of those old cases where there wouldn't be so much talk except that there is so much to say on both sides. But there has been nothing done yet that I know of that can hurt anybody; it is still on the discussional stage.

Q. Carleton Kent, Chicago Sun-Times: Mr. President, I wonder if you can tell us something of what went through your mind when Mr. Khrushchev presented you a replica of the sphere that the rocket deposited on the moon the other day.

THE PRESIDENT. I think the fair thing to say is that he wanted this as a little memento.

They did make every announcement on the thing as early as they could. They said it was an exploration, a peaceful activity into space, and so he brought this thing along. I found it very interesting, how it was made up of what he called--again talking about this matter of interpretation-he used the word "pennant" all the time; it is a pennant sent up there.

Well, it is a little ball, as you photographers saw, at least, and it is made up of a series of surface pentagons each of which has a few initials on it.

Now, I suspect, in view of the speed with which it was running and hit, that the whole thing was probably vaporized; but nevertheless it was in there. [Laugher]

Q. John R. Gibson, Wall Street Journal: You spoke about the financing problem, the financing of the Government debt. Can you say what you intend to do about it, since Congress didn't act, without a special session or anything like that?

THE PRESIDENT. As you know, we fought very hard to get people to comprehend what these facts really mean to the United States, and we seem to have failed.

Now, they did do certain things, making it possible to pay better interest rates on our E and H bonds, and also to send out new E and H bonds that would bear a better interest rate. This ought to at least allay the fear of the holders, 40 million people, and stop any rush toward their cashing in. There are a few other little regulations, amendments, that were helpful.

But by and large, we simply have not been able to convince the Congress as to the vital necessity of this thing. I think that the financial community--insurance companies, the banks, and everybody else--has a job to do on educating our public, so that the Congress will feel the heat of truth about this matter and do something.

In the meantime, of course, we are doing everything that we can conceivably do to keep the difficulty from growing worse.

Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, is there any thought in your mind of a special session on this subject--of Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. It would be, of course, wrong to say I never have any thought about such things. I am saying that until we can explore this whole situation, I would be very careful in my moves.

And next I have this: it is only, now, a little over 3 months before the Congress is back here anyway; and by the time I think the proof is clearer and the educational process can grow a little further--in the original case, when we proposed this, many of the banks came down opposing it. Well, they have all been converted so far as I know, all that I have heard of, and they are now talking about supporting the administration view very strongly. If this happens, then the public and the Congress itself are going to get so educated that there will be no trouble about this.

Q. Charles W. Roberts, Newsweek: Now that you have talked to Chairman Khrushchev, sir, I wonder if you could tell us any more of your plans for your trip to Russia, when you plan to go, how long you expect to stay and what you want to see, and whether you plan to go to India on the way back?

THE PRESIDENT. It has not been discussed in the slightest degree, none of it, and so I just have to wait. I don't know when it can happen.

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, do you think it was wise of Congress to postpone action on civil rights to 1960, except for extending the life of the Commission?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, after all, I suppose we have got to take the practicalities into consideration. I, of course, put in a 7-point program at the very beginning of the congressional session, and I hoped that constructive action would be taken on it.

They finally had, in order even to get anything done, to agree on this firm date sometime in late January or early February; and so I don't think I'll comment further on it.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and seventy-first news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:59 to 11:30 o'clock on Thursday morning, September 17, 1959. In attendance: 220.

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/234230

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