The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. Good morning. Please sit down. I have no announcements.
Q. Dayton Moore, United Press: Mr. President, did Vice President Nixon act as President at any time during your three illnesses?
THE PRESIDENT. No. I would have thought a question like that could be posed on this basis: if it had been necessary for him to make any decisions, should he? Should he then act as acting President? I said yes, that is correct; but you see the Constitution says he is to discharge the duties and powers.
But, if there is no occasion for discharging the duties and powers and the matter were something of a matter of a few hours, like when I was on the operating table a year ago or so, well then if anything came up, he would have to do it. That is all there is to it.
It doesn't make any difference, as I see it. The time element is the possibility of a crisis.
Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, in connection with this pact between yourself and the Vice President--
THE PRESIDENT. No, it isn't a pact. Q. Mr. Spivack: Well, agreement or--
THE PRESIDENT. We are not trying to rewrite the Constitution. We are trying just to say that we are trying to carry out what normal humans of good faith having some confidence in each other would do in accordance with the language of the Constitution.
Q. Mr. Spivack: Well, could you tell me whether your legal advisers have discussed this point with you: suppose there was a long period during which he had to be acting President, would any bills that he signed have the effect of law if they were brought to him?
THE PRESIDENT. I think--I'll tell you what, I will preface my remarks to this extent: I believe that the Attorney General is going to have a press conference and is going to try to answer all the constitutional questions that might be brought up.
But, I believe this: as long as the Vice President, as acting President, is carrying or discharging the powers and the duties of the office, he has to do anything that the President would be required to do at that time.
Q. William S. White, New York Times: Mr. President, there is a visible difference and emphasis in Congress between the way the two parties are dealing with the recession. In a general way, the Democrats are arguing for the expenditure now of more money and having more federal projects than the Republicans. Would you care to make any general comment about the philosophy of these two approaches, and indicate how you, yourself, look at it?
THE PRESIDENT. I believe, of course, that the upturn in our economy will be the result of millions of citizens making their purchases, having greater confidence.
In other words, the private economy has a way of steering its own course, and the federal Government and the State governments are not, themselves, the most important factor in those dips and upturns of the economy.
However, it is undeniable that they can do many things. for example, the encouragement of more home building, which goes into many areas of our country. There is the easing of credit which the federal Reserve Board has been doing in the last 3 months. There are all sorts of things in the way of accelerating projects already approved, already in some instances appropriations made. That kind of thing is very good and should be done all the time.
And certainly the federal Government should be terrifically interested in watching every statistic, every index, that they can get hold of, as to what the economy is going to do, and do everything that seems to be reasonable.
Now, I do not believe that just spending federal money is entirely the answer. We have spent an awful lot of federal Government money, and that--when we are doing that, it seems just a putting a few more dollars, because they are a few dollars, relatively, compared to a billion budget--that doesn't seem to be the whole answer.
I believe it is watching the situation, getting the best advice, seeing what is happening and doing everything you can; but do not ever attempt to make the Government the most important factor in the American economy.
Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, if you come to a tax cut as a means of fighting the recession, would you recommend that that be largely on individuals, or would it apply also to business; and, secondly, do you have a bill ready to take off the shelf on tax cutting, a specific bill?
THE PRESIDENT. No; and, I'll tell you, for a very specific reason, Larry: this is a situation that changes every single minute of the day. You don't know exactly when is the right time to do some of these things, and when the time does come to make a specific move, you have to know the details of the move that will probably improve the situation.
For example, right now the Wall Street Journal and other reports say that the machine-tool industry has had a spurt in February. At the same time, we know there has been more unemployment. Now, as you look at the predictions made by those industrialists themselves, about two thirds of them believe that this is the beginning of an upturn in the machine-tool industry; about a third say "Well, maybe that spurt has no great meaning."
So that is another one that comes in, because this is a very important index that all your economists examine; this is the kind of expenditure that makes more jobs, more production, and all the rest of it. This is not merely a new statistic in the, let's say, falling off in departmental sales; it has got more significance.
So, as the time comes to make a decision, you have got to be flexible enough to make the proper detailed decision at that moment.
Q. Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News: If a Summit conference should be arranged, would you like to see it held in Washington?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, in this respect, I have a message from the Soviets which indicated they were quite agreeable to come to this country if there were a Summit meeting arranged; and they even were so kind enough to say that I had special inhibitions because of my constitutional duty as the head both of the state and of the government. So, I would think that the decision would have to be made at the time. If the prospects were for a short meeting of the heads of state, I don't think there would be any great thing to be gained; if it looked like you were going to be awhile in such a place, well, manifestly I would have to stay in this country.
Q. Mr. Lisagot: Was this message to you in the latest aide memoire from the Russians?
THE PRESIDENT. No, this was just a message to me, that's all.
Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: May I go back to the Presidential question?
Your agreement with the Vice President seems to assume that a disabled President should resume the Presidency when he felt better. Outside of the legal question involved, and it is controversial, as you know, might this not lead to a sort of musical chairs with the President going in and out, which might be detrimental to the national interest because of difference of policy between the President and Vice President?
THE PRESIDENT. Mrs. Craig, the imagination can picture any kind of a situation--where personalities are involved--where the national interest could be badly damaged.
What we are assuming here, as far as Mr. Nixon and I are concerned, at least, is that we are men of good faith, we are honest men that are trying to do what is correct for the country.
Now, as far as the assumption that if I am capable of resuming my duties--the text of the Constitution says when the disability or inability is removed. If those words, English words, don't mean anything to you, I assure you they do to me. I think it means when the inability is removed he resumes his duties. So you will note in the little public statement that I made, I said the Vice President will be the ultimate and exclusive authority for the decision as to taking over this job; it will be mine to decide when I can take it back.
I admit this: if a man were so deranged that he thought he was able, and the consensus was that he couldn't, there would have to be something else done, no question.
Q. Roscoe Drummond, New York Herald Tribune: One more question on this subject. May I ask whether the constitutional amendment that was introduced in the Senate yesterday by a group of Democrats and Republicans, either essentially or broadly meets your concepts of what would be good?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, yes indeed. Actually, as you study it, I believe-going back to Mrs. Craig's question, you can picture situations where it is almost impossible to write a formula that is going to work; but I believe if we are people of good will, if we are people that think of their country a little bit more than we do just of some personal prestige or something else, I believe that the kind of amendment they are now talking about would be a complete answer.
Q. Stephen J. McCormick, Mutual Broadcasting System: Mr. President, yesterday Mr. Dulles used strong language with words like "hoax" and "fraud" in describing the Russian proposal. Do you feel this still leaves the door open, or is this an effort to attempt to close the door on the kind of proposal the Russians are making?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I read every word of his press conference and frankly say that I don't recall the word "fraud." I am sure he didn't mean to close any doors. I think the details of his conference reflect my own views just as accurately as I could possibly explain them myself. Indeed, we had a very long conference between ourselves before he went to that press conference, about this whole subject.
We will never close the door; I have assured you people time and time again that if there is any possible avenue, no matter how crooked, no matter how narrow, if I can discern it and it will take us toward some casing of tensions in the world, one step towards peace, I am perfectly ready to start, no matter what the difficulty is.
Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, we know that you and Mr. Nixon are men of good faith, but aren't you setting a dangerous precedent here for someone who might come in the future, who might not be of such good faith? Mr. Rayburn said yesterday that there is no provision in this country for an acting President, and, therefore, if this agreement should be legal, then there would be no need for law or constitutional amendment.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am afraid there are lots of people who are no better lawyers than I, making a lot of commitments on this thing.
I just want to point this out: I haven't used the word "acting President" except as a method of describing what the man would actually be doing.
The Constitution says the Vice President will do certain things. It doesn't say he takes a new oath. It says under certain situations the Vice President does certain things, and when that situation is ended, he doesn't do them any more; that is the way I see the constitutional issue.
Q. Mrs. McClendon: Does he take an oath, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. Why should he? He is Vice President. He has taken an oath as Vice President, and it says the Vice President will do these things.
Q. Mrs. McClendon: I see.
THE PRESIDENT. Again, I refer you to the Attorney General, who will probably have a thousand of this type of question.
Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, I think I am right in my history, sir, that it was just about 2 years and 1 week ago that you let it be known that you would be available for renomination.
Recently, amid heavily increasing complications and difficulties for your administration, not excluding some rather sharp criticism of yourself, it has been widely speculated that you wished that you had not let yourself be persuaded to run for a second term.
Would you care to comment on that; and, as a corollary, could you tell us when you and Mr. Nixon, orally at least, reached a decision on this operating agreement?
THE PRESIDENT. Let's take the last part first.
We have discussed this thing ever since my first illness. We first discussed it in an entirely different context, recommending as urgently as we knew how, for the Congress to act. Then, when it seemed that there was going to be a long delay, we began to talk in personal terms what we would do. finally, we felt it best to give a statement what we felt we would have to do.
Now, what was the first part of your question?
Q. Mr. Morgan: As to whether in retrospect, sir
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, about this regret. I think I have told you numbers of times that I see no profit of regretting any decision.
On the other hand, I would say this: I thought they were compelling reasons, I thought it frankly required a great personal sacrifice of my own convenience and the desires I would like to have as an individual, but these reasons seemed to be sufficiently weighty that I decided to go ahead.
That decision having been made, and I having been elected, then I am going to do just as well as I know how, and I'm not going to ask anyone for sympathy, in spite of all these, you say, criticisms of me. I expect them and I would be amazed if we didn't have them.
Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, your earlier answer to the question of the Summit may be subject, sir, in the interpretation that you favor Washington as a site only if it is a long conference. Is this what you have in mind?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I didn't say--I just said in my position, that if there were a long conference, it would be certainly preferable for me to be in the United States somewhere, rather than away, because I feel that communications are better, particularly communications where you have signatures to affix to documents and so on.
So, I haven't even thought in those terms, for a very simple reason: the subject you are talking about is so important that frankly I don't care much about where I'm working as long as it is a convenient place and it can be done.
But when it comes to the place that I couldn't operate efficiently, then this other factor came into it.
Q. Carleton Kent, Chicago Sun-Times: Mr. President, it has been about a week since that mutual assistance conference at the Statler Hotel, called to engender support for your bill. Have you had any reports on public reaction, or more importantly, on congressional reaction to that conference?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have heard that--only in an individual way and as far as I know--there has been no particular Congressman that has had his mind changed; but there is a very great evidence of the work now going on by members of this central conference to set up similar ones in States, counties, cities and so on, and in the effort to inform the American public exactly what is required in this field.
Q. Pat Munroe, Salt Lake City Deseret News: Mr. President, is there any thought within your administration of denying economic and military aid to France unless some sort of truce is reached in Algeria?
THE PRESIDENT. No. I haven't had that specific question put before me in that way, but I'll say this: we have a very, very difficult problem to solve, but I believe at this moment there is no economic aid in Europe going ahead; I believe that so far as I know.
Now, there may be some little exception, but in general the aid there is in getting new weapons systems into the NATO areas. We do have [France as] a NATO ally and we also are great friends of the North African area, so it is a very hard problem and one that takes the attention of the administration each day.
Q. Spencer Davis, Associated Press: Mr. President, there have been recent reports, sir, that the statehood question for Hawaii and Alaska is stalemated; but Senator Knowland and some other Senators believe that there is still a chance for it. Would you care to comment on that?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have discussed it with a number of people on the Hill, and, as usual, I find that many are opposed and some are supporting.
It would appear that there is more activity than in the normal session of Congress, and, as I repeat, statehood for these two areas is still a part of both the Democratic and the Republican national platforms; and it would seem something that shouldn't be quite as controversial as it appears to be.
Q. Alvin A. Spivak, International News Service: Mr. President, Senator Schoeppel, the Chairman of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, said over the weekend that it would be detrimental in some States for Republican candidates to campaign in support of your administration. first, do you agree that it would hurt any Republicans to campaign in support of you; and, second, will you support any Republicans who don't support you?
THE PRESIDENT. Well--[laughing]--you have asked a specific question on a statement that he has made that I have not read, and I certainly
would like to read his whole context.
I have frequently stated that there are a few things in this world that I believe with my whole heart: we must be amply secure in our own right; we must help to build up countries, both militarily and economically, if the tide of communism is to be checked and turned back; we must, in this country, federally and in all proper governmental ways, be watchful of the economy, to keep it prosperous, and to keep our prosperity widely shared.
I try to do those things under principles, as I see it, that are in keeping with the Constitution of America.
Now, those are the big things that I believe in, and where I would refuse to go along and support any man who didn't believe them, because I think they are vital to our country, there can be a hundred things where a man can disagree with me and still, to my mind, belong to the general political grouping which I belong in.
One other thing: I don't like to remind you of one thing, but at least the national ticket had more people voting for it in 1956, only a year and a few months ago, than ever supported a Republican candidate before. I don't believe that is very conclusive evidence that it is better to repudiate the national ticket of 1956 than it is to support it. On the contrary, I think it would be better if they would support it.
Q. Frank van der Linden, Nashville Banner: Sir, the Army has reported to Congress that the troops at Little Rock are costing about $3,500 a day, and they figure that the total cost for this fiscal year will be about
$5 million. Should we interpret the use of "the fiscal year" to indicate that the troops will remain there until the end of the fiscal year, or do you know when they will be pulled out, the last one?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I many times described the conditions under which I think they could be and should be taken out, but as long as there is any cost that is compelled to make certain that the federal courts cannot be defied successfully, we have to bear the cost.
Q. John M. Hightower, Associated Press: Mr. President, Mr. Dulles talked yesterday about the Soviet proposal for a foreign ministers' meeting in April. I am not sure in my own mind whether the judgment of the Government is that this proposal has advanced the prospect for a Summit conference or that it makes no substantial contribution at all. Could you tell us how you estimate the importance of it?
THE PRESIDENT. I think I can say in about two sentences what I believe about the things Mr. Dulles had to say.
It is absolutely futile and, in my opinion, damaging to attempt to hold a Summit meeting unless the agenda and the subjects included on it are so well prepared as to give a genuine belief that real progress, if not fixed agreements, but real progress toward easing of tensions can be accomplished.
And, therefore, the yardstick by which the United States measures the possibility of a Summit meeting is: have we had really decent preparation that would appeal to reasonable men?
Q. Arthur B. Dunbar, Jr., Newark Evening News: On the basis, sir, of the 4-week record of the House investigation of the federal Communications Commission, could you tell us, sir, whether you see any clear need for legislation to avoid the sort of influences that have been shown by that testimony?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, while I have always tried to avoid prejudging, I'd say this: there must be certainty that these so-called independent commissions are really independent, that they make their judgements without outside influence other than the submission of proper evidence, either on the part of the Government or private industry. That is what they are for, and I think it is a very tragic thing for the United States to begin believing that someone has got a really top-flight lobbying outfit and knows how to reach somebody, is getting the kind of decision that it wants in the case.
Q. William H. Knighton, Jr., Baltimore Sun: Mr. President, there are several proposals relating to the setup of the ultimate agency to control space activities, whether it be civilian or military or two separate agencies. In that regard, sir, over the last 12 years has civilian authority over atomic energy satisfied everyone, including the military?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I hope it has, because I was, I think, the first and most emphatic proponent for putting atomic energy in the civilian agency way back in '46, or when we started on this thing. Now, exactly how this thing is going to be done now--this is certain: the use of outer space for scientific purposes certainly belongs to the finest civilian administrators and scientists we can get.
Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, you spoke a little bit mysteriously about a message on holding a Summit conference in Washington. Could you and Mr. Khrushchev be setting--
THE PRESIDENT. No, there is nothing--after all, don't find wickedness around here where no evil is intended. [Laughter]
All I am saying is that I don't think it is proper to identify every message that has ever come back to me, because sometimes they are by word of mouth, sometimes they are written, they are direct telegrams; so the message came and I gave you my interpretation of it.
Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post: Mr. President, in the last midterm political campaign, that was 1954, you really did a great deal to try and elect a Republican Congress. As I remember it, you spoke in Denver several times, Oregon, Los Angeles, and then, at the very --
THE PRESIDENT. I think I made about a dozen talks.
Q. Mr. Folliard: Yes, sir.
Now, do you expect to do anything comparable to that in this election year?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, in light of this implied criticism I just got this morning, maybe someone doesn't think it is so beneficial; but there are places I think they would like me to come around, I am sure.
Dayton Moore, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and twenty-eighth news conference was held in the Executive office Building from 10:31 to 10:59 o'clock on Wednesday morning, March 5, 1958. In attendance: 222.
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/234525