Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

February 26, 1958

THE PRESIDENT. Good morning. Please sit down. I have no announcements of my own.

Q. Alvin A. Spivak, International News Service: Mr. President, on the basis of evidence turned up by House investigators so far, do you feel that Commissioner Mack should resign or be fired?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have no judgment at this time because the evidence, so far as I know, is in the process of bring concentrated.

The Attorney General, for a long time, has been watching the situation, getting everything to see if there is any reason for taking any action.

Now, we should remember this: the only function of the President in a thing of this kind is to appoint the man. He is appointed to a term and the only way he can be removed is for cause, so therefore I assume that would be by a trial of some kind.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, Time magazine says, in its issue that came out today, that because of the cumulative effect of your illnesses, that you have been forced to reduce your work load 25 percent. Now, do you feel that your work load has been materially reduced?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I wish it were reduced, but--no, I don't think it has at all. This is the first time I even heard such a suggestion.

Q. Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register and Tribune: Mr. President, Sherman Adams has written a letter in which he states that he went over the details of a pending CAB matter with an acting chairman of the CAB.

It is contended, up on Capitol Hill, that this was a violation of a CAB rule which states it is improper that there be any communication, private communication that is, by any private or public person with a member of the CAB, with the examiners of the CAB, with the staff, while the case is pending, except in those matters prescribed by law.

I wonder if you could tell us whether you felt Mr. Adams was acting within the proper scope of his authority in this particular matter.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, again you are bringing up a thing I have not heard of; but I will say this: there are a number of cases that come under the CAB that the White House must act on. Any time that they refer or have anything to do with the foreign routes that CAB has authorized, or refuses to authorize, then the President himself is required to make the final judgement. And, very naturally, my staff would want to get any additional information that I need. So, I would assume it is so on that case.

Q. Mr. Mollenhoff: Mr. President, on that line

THE PRESIDENT. I don't want anything more about that.

Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, when you were examined in December by a neurologist, they said they would examine you again in about a month. Could you tell us why that apparently has been delayed or whether a date has been set, or what the situation is?

THE PRESIDENT. I asked someone that question last evening, because I forgot it, and I wondered why it hadn't come up. I think maybe I should check up.

Q. Charles W. Roberts, Newsweek: Sir, a group of Republican Congressmen have decided that Secretary Benson is a liability and they intend to ask you to do something about obtaining his resignation. Do you have any intention of doing that before the November election?

THE PRESIDENT. Let me get this whole subject in perspective.

Now, in the first place, so far as my immediate official family is concerned, it is my responsibility to appoint them, select them, and the only relationship the Congress has to that process is that the Senate must give its advice and its consent to the appointment. Therefore, for any group of Congressmen, either informally or formally, to raise a question concerning my appointments to the Cabinet would not seem to be in order.

However, let's go to the substantive part of this matter: the purpose of all farm programs from the beginning has been the hope of getting for the farmer parity in costs and in price. None of those governmental programs has ever been completely successful, and many have been tried.

We, of course, want to provide governmentally for insurance against the advent of disaster to farmers by reasons beyond their control. By and large, this administration believes, certainly I believe, that we are going to be better off the more we can free farmers from regulations and the more they can participate in their own activities in the farming industry under the general influence of economic forces that apply to the rest of the economy.

Now, Mr. Benson has been trying to find ways and means that we can proceed in this way so that the opportunity of farmers to get their parity in prices and in costs will be greater rather than less.

On top of that, I feel that Mr. Benson is a man of acknowledged courage and honesty. By "honesty," I don't mean only his personal habits and practices, a personal matter; I believe this: I believe he is honest in his great effort to find proper, reasonable, sensible programs that can be recommended by the Congress. He has organized advisory committees, some of them legislatively authorized, from people from both political parties, from all parts of the Government; and generally speaking the programs that he has established have had the full approval of these outside committees.

Now, I think this: when we find a man of this dedication, this kind of courage, this kind of intellectual and personal honesty, we should say to ourselves, "We just don't believe that America has come to the point where it wants to dispense with the services of that kind of a person."

Therefore, I think the people that are advising and recommending this kind of thing are badly mistaken.

Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown Times: Mr. President, you and the Secretary of the Treasury have indicated that a tax cut would be only a last resort measure in the event that the recession does not end when you expect it to. The congressional leaders of the Republican Party yesterday, after conferring with Dr. Saulnier, of the Economic Advisory Council, indicated that the administration might be exploring new starts in the public works field, but the Budget Director said, in New York yesterday, he preferred a tax cut in preference to public works starts.

Where does the average American look to the administration for economic activity to help?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, first of all, I think you are a little bit in error when you say we would say that the administration would consider a tax cut to be a last resort. I think I talked about that matter one other time here. I have no doubt that in special cases Dr. Saulnier--after all, I was at that conference myself yesterday morning with the legislative leaders--Dr. Saulnier has a particular personal thought, as the Bureau of the Budget can; but when you come down to the measures that are to be approved for federal action, there is only one person that makes the decision, and that is the President.

Now, with respect to your new starts, of course there will be new starts. There are new starts that are already approved, with money appropriated for them, and those new starts we will take on. But in general, new starts will not do a very great deal for bringing people back to work quickly. There is always preliminary engineering work, surveying, boring, soundings, every kind of thing where only a few specialists are working.

But you can take projects already in order, and in process, projects that the Government wants to get done, and, as I pointed out in a little talk the other morning, this is a kind of a time to press them, to accelerate them. Now, you can accelerate them much more easily than you can these newer types.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: Mr. President, in your last letter to Premier Bulganin, you suggested the possibility of visits here of what you called influential Soviet leaders. Does that constitute an invitation to Bulganin and Khrushchev and other members of the Presidium?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I thought I was--it is possible my wording was not as accurate as I had hoped, but it meant people not in official governmental positions, so it could not be called a Summit meeting between ourselves. I was talking about leaders of thought, and not those people carrying official responsibility.

Q. Felix Belair, New York Times: Mr. President, you have asked Congress repeatedly, I think, sir, to deal with the question of Presidential disability, and the constitutional ambiguity on that point, but nothing has been done up on the Hill about it as yet. Now, it is reported that you have reached an understanding with the Cabinet and Vice President Nixon on the question, as far as your own administration is concerned. I wonder if you could tell us anything on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I brought out long ago, I think after my first illness or certainly quite a while back, that I think this is something that Congress should take action on; and I personally think it probably requires a constitutional amendment if it is going to be clearly corrected.

Now, in my own case, because I think between Mr. Nixon and myself there is a rather unique state of mutual confidence and even liking and respect, I think there is no problem; because I think Mr. Nixon knows exactly what he should do in the event of a Presidential disability of the kind that we are talking about.

And so, I have got my own conscience clear at the moment, but I still think it should be handled as something for all future cases.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, NBC News: Harry Truman said recently that he did not offer you the Presidency, yet in checking your book, I notice you used the words, I think, "specifically and definitely." Is there anything you would like to add to that situation for the sake of the historical record?

THE PRESIDENT. Not a word, not a word.

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, on two occasions the Secretary of Labor sent out an urgent letter quoting your economic message of 1954 to all States requesting that they act to "beef up" unemployment benefits, to raise their standards generally so that unemployed workers would receive at least 50 percent of wages.

Now they get about 35 percent of their wages and not a single State has acted on that request. In view of the current high level of unemployment, do you think it would be worthwhile for you to repeat this request to the States with more vigor?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I remember when we went into it then, we wanted to have it a minimum of 26 weeks, and even possibly that lengthened; and I think you quoted that correctly at least, as far as my memory goes, up to 50 percent.

Now, that matter has not been brought to my attention recently, and I would want to talk to Secretary Mitchell before I did go into it again.

Q. Mr. Herling: Do you plan to do that soon, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you suggest it to him, will you? He'll come to see me, and then I won't have to remember.

Q. Mr. Herling: Thank you, I will.

Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Harold Stassen, in an article published today, has suggested a 2-year trial disarmament agreement with the Russians. He suggests that one of these points being an end to atomic testing for a 2-year period, but, for the first time, he drops the condition which we have said must go hand in hand with that, namely, an end to production of atomic materials. What would you think of such a proposal?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think I would prefer not to discuss it in detail, but I do say this: there is one very great difficulty about just making a flat agreement for cessation of testing, even if you could conceivably detect all of the tests illegally made, and that is this: we belong to an association for which we have great respect, NATO; and some of the nations there are in different states of producing the weapons that require testing, and we would have a difficult time, I think, under the present laws, to make an agreement with them that would be binding on all of the NATO countries, and certainly we would want it to be so.

Q. Carleton Kent, Chicago Sun-Times: Mr. President, in answer to an earlier question, you denied that the administration's position on a tax cut was that it would be a last resort thing. Could you tell us a little more in detail what your position is now on it, and whether it is a possibility for this year?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, a tax cut is, of course, a possibility if there is any deepening of the depression that requires it. On the other side, let us not forget that we are asking for enlarged sums in every single thing that we are doing. We are asking for the greatest sums in our history for all public works. You take Agriculture; the Bureau of Reclamation, the Corps of Engineers, their total is the highest of our history. Our peacetime budget for defense is greater.

Now, if you are going to have this kind of expenses, you have got to try to get some money in your purse to pay for the bills. And certainly you don't want to go into a tax cut until that is necessary to bring about the upturn.

Now, as I pointed out, there certainly are some indications that there will be more job opportunities in March--some increased job opportunities, probably not great, but some; and if that occurs, we believe it can mark the beginning of the end of this recession.

I have never said, as some papers have noted, that March is going to be a critical state in which there will be quick upturn or even a gradual upturn in the economy. It will take some time to stop the recession, even though you finally begin to note certain phases as beginning to wane. So I would say that our situation, certainly we hope, by mid-year is going to be along the line much better.

Q. Charles W. Bailey, Minneapolis Star and Tribune: Since the beginning of your second term, sir, has the Secretary of Agriculture sought to return to his private life; and have you had to reason with him to keep him on down here?

THE PRESIDENT. No. No, there has been this about it: a number of people in Utah have stated that they would like him to be back whenever he could come, but they always want to know whether he is useful to me, and my answer is "Yes."

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Mr. President, I believe you favored the amendments put in the House bill on gas, the one that Mr. Harris brought forth which came out of the committee, and I wonder if the Porter letter has changed your mind on the merits of that gas bill.

THE PRESIDENT. No. It has not changed my mind on the merits whatsoever. That, to my mind, hopefully, is an isolated incident that will never be repeated.

Q. Rod MacLeish, Westinghouse Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, have you formulated any plans yet as to what extent you will participate in the 1958 Republican congressional campaign?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I haven't. I have not even thought about it. As far as my personal participation, I haven't thought about it.

Q. Earl H. Voss, Washington Star: Last July, Mr. President, you told us that if there were any more atomic weapons tests you would invite foreign observers, including those from the Soviet Union. Since then, there has been an announcement that this might be supervised by a United Nations group. Have you invited any observers from the Soviet Union, or do you plan to?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I haven't done anything about it at all yet. As a matter of fact, I don't know exactly the tests when this practice would be wise; and I haven't talked to Admiral Strauss exactly as to that particular matter.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: The publisher of the Paterson, New Jersey, Evening News says that we are in the grip of what he calls a psychosomatic business slump, and he proposes a "believe in America" campaign. He does this in an editorial I believe earlier this week. He says that we are the greatest country on earth and that something needs to be done to shake us out of the psychological slump, as he calls it, and we have been asked for your comment on that idea.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it is undeniable that confidence, a belief in ourselves, individually and collectively, is a very important feature in the degree of activity you normally anticipate in our economy; and if we have the courage, if we have got, you might say, the widely held determination to move courageously, there is no question in my mind but that it would be helpful.

Now, whether or not a campaign for bringing about this kind of confidence is the best thing, I haven't thought of that as a public relations problem that has yet come to me. But let's not forget, above all things, the need of confidence and that, of course, I think nationally. It is what do you and I think of the prospects; do we want to go buy a refrigerator and do something that we think is useful and desirable in our families, or don't we?

It is just that simple, in my mind.

Q. Spencer Davis, Associated Press: Mr. President, your reciprocal trade program on the Hill has been reported to be in difficulties, sir. At the same time, there are countries abroad that are looking anxiously to you. The Japanese, for example, seek to diversify, and each time they do, they are slapped down by finding themselves in difficulty with domestic producers.

Could you tell us about your feelings on this now?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, last evening, of course, I was speaking about mutual aid; but I did seize or make the opportunity to make as great a favorable statement as I could for mutual trade.

I said it was one of the iron imperatives of security and peace. I believe that. And as this campaign or this struggle goes on, whatever I can do is going to be done, because I cannot believe that anything would be more damaging to us in this country, and in this world--I mean when I say "damaging to our country," to our own economy, as well as to our international relationships--than to attempt to withdraw commercially, economically from the rest of the world.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, you had an unusually long conference with the new Russian ambassador. Could you tell us whether he took up the question of a Summit conference or increased East-West trade?

THE PRESIDENT. No. Well, I don't think I could talk, Mr. Brandt, specifically about the subjects of a conference.

He came in to make a call and present his credentials, and I found him, as far as his mannerisms, his attitude was very friendly, and he did talk in a general way about some of these subjects but he covered the water front very well, for the simple reason that I wanted him to stay there to get in my own mind just what he seemed to be thinking.

He talks English well, and he seemed to me to be individually a very friendly person. That's about all there was to it.

Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Mr. President, could you bring us up to date on the reorganization of the Pentagon plans since the Puerto Rico--

THE PRESIDENT. I really cannot do it, for this reason: I had Mr. McElroy in, I think yesterday morning, for a brief moment, but he is trying to have a final conference here to get his ideas crystallized so he can bring them to me. And I think we have a conference with Mr. Coolidge, who is his executive director down there, in a very few days, maybe this week.

Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Sir, in answering Felix Belair and talking about your relations with Vice President Nixon, may I ask: have you put in writing any specific expression of your will for Mr. Nixon or for the Cabinet in case of emergencies?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think that is really an answer that I should give, for this particular reason: if I have, then probably you would want the letter, then you would want to see whether my grammar is correct and all the rest of it. I say this: there is such a clear understanding between Mr. Nixon and myself, an understanding to which others around me are completely privy, that it is inconceivable, that is between him and me, that any misunderstanding could occur.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post: Mr. President, former President Truman, in talking yesterday about the mutual security bill, made this statement: "I challenge the Republicans to do as well by this bill as the Democrats do." Do you have any plans, Mr. President, to rally the Republican members of Congress on this?

THE PRESIDENT. As I recall, and I hope my memory on historical events is not too faulty, that for the first time we had a Republican majority favoring this bill, and a Democratic majority against it.

Now, if that is an erroneous statement, I will apologize the next time I meet you.

Q. Kenneth M. Scheibel, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, you have been asked, getting back to Mr. Benson, to rescind his order reducing the prices for dairy farmers on April 1. In view of your defense of him here this morning, does that mean you are going to decline absolutely a request from Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. Well I haven't seen that request, but I do say this: in spite of my great confidence in any individual, I would be wrong if I had shown any tendency to surrender my mind to one of my friends and to be sort of an automaton for him. I have used my own judgment in details, but that does not affect in any degree my great confidence in Secretary Benson.

Merriman Smith, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and twenty-seventh news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:33 to 11:01 o'clock on Wednesday morning, February 26, 1958. In attendance: 203.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/234506

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