Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

November 05, 1958

THE PRESIDENT. Please sit down. Good morning. Any questions?

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press International: Yes, sir. [Laughter] Mr. President, during the past campaign, you told the public repeatedly that the Democrats were left-wing extremists; you pictured them as apostles of wholesale reckless spending, phony doctrines, committed to demagogic excess.

Now, against that background, sir, what do you think caused the Democratic landslide, and particularly how do you propose, as you promised to do during the campaign, as head of this administration, to fight these Democrats who now are in commanding control of the House and Senate?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, first of all I must remind you, you did not read my talks accurately.

I continued to talk about the spender-wing of the Democratic Party. I was very careful. I am sure you will never find any place in my whole campaign when I talked about the Democratic Party as a whole, and in terms of accusation of any kind. The most I ever said about the Democratic Party was "split down the middle."

Now, I did talk about the spender-wing, and apparently that didn't make any great impression, for obviously we didn't get enough Republican votes. But I would like to say a word about the importance of that spending to everyone in this room; and, since you are representative, I'll say, to all of the 175 million people.

Next year we are going to have to refund $50 billion of bonds of more than 1-year length. We have, during that same time, to roll over something in the order of $23 billion worth of short-term notes, I think four times--certainly three--I forget whether it is three or four. finally, we've got to find more than $12 billion of new money; and, next fall, because of the seasonal way in which our income comes into the Treasury, we will have to make temporary borrowings of a considerable amount of money.

Now this, to my mind, is a very serious thing because I am convinced that the two principal spurs to inflation are, one, the continuous wage-price spiral, and the other is unnecessary Federal spending, particularly Federal deficits of the size that we had to face up to this year.

We have got to stop spending if we are going to keep further dilution of the dollar from taking place.

And I have this one conviction: all of you know the extent to which I am dedicated to the whole theory of liberty and freedom and of free enterprise, and I believe that we cannot have these concepts applied completely in our country unless we do stop this money spending. So I did inveigh against that money spending and the people--as a matter of fact, I gave quotes, so I think that I was taking them out of sort of historical record--I still do it. I believe that that kind of spending must stop or the United States is in the most serious trouble that we can think of.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post: Mr. President, I'd like to go back to Mr. Smith's question, but quote what you said in Los Angeles. After saying that the Democratic Party was dominated by political radicals, you said, "Either we choose left-wing government or sensible government, spendthrift government or responsible government."

THE PRESIDENT. I said the dominant wing of the Democratic Party.

Q. Mr. Folliard: Yes. Mr. President, do you think that the people yesterday chose left-wing government rather than sensible government?

THE PRESIDENT. I think at least this: I don't know whether they did this thing deliberately. I know this, that they obviously voted for people that I would class among the spenders, and that is what I say is going to be the real trouble. And I promise this: for the next 2 years, the Lord sparing me, I am going to fight this as hard as I know how. And if we don't, I just say that--well, in the long run, everybody else that is responsible has got to fight it.

The conservative Democrats, the newspapers, every kind of person that has got the brains to see what is happening to this country with our loose handling of our fiscal affairs has got to fight it.

Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, what factors do you think caused the Republican defeat and the Democratic victory?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know, of course, what trends might have occurred that you really can unearth; but I'll tell you this: I agree with what the Vice President said last night and with the Chairman of the Republican Party. The Republicans are prone to campaign very hard the last week or 2 weeks, or 2 months of an election, and they don't fight between elections.

I believe that Mr. Alcorn is correct when he says that if the Republicans don't start fighting this morning, this very day, for the next election, they're going to be in a bad way. I believe this is true throughout the country.

Q. Andrew F. Tully, Jr., Scripps-Howard: Sir, after some of your campaigning, do you anticipate additional trouble with the Democratic Congress this time?

THE PRESIDENT. Not at all. I have always dealt with the Democratic Congress in what I thought, in my honest conviction, was good for the country, and I think there are a lot of them believe that they want to do what is good for the country. I assure you again that I'm talking about a good many people in that party.

Q. J. F. Ter Horst, Detroit News: Sir, in order that the Government can stay fiscally sound, do you feel that the new Congress must come up with new taxes to meet these deficits that you say we are facing?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know; and, as a matter of fact, my advisers and I haven't really decided what we must do. I don't think we should talk yet about raising taxes.

What I think we should do is get down expenditures. We have been too lavish in too many things starting, indeed, in my opinion, in certain things in Defense; because as yet we have not eliminated the duplications, the unnecessary expenditures that are going on, and we must start right from the biggest and go right down to the smallest.

Q. Ruth Montgomery, Hearst Headline Service: Mr. President, do you regard Nelson Rockefeller now as a strong candidate to succeed you in 2 years?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, that's one thought I haven't approached or even thought of at all. I am delighted that he is elected and I have congratulated him warmly this morning. But I don't think it's time now to be talking about that far in the future.

Q. Carleton Kent, Chicago Sun-Times: Mr. President, do you foresee any change in role for Mr. Nixon within the administration in the next 2 years?

THE PRESIDENT. Why, I wouldn't think so, Mr. Kent.

Actually, the President has no constitutional power over the Vice President and, therefore, everything that the Vice President does here is because of cooperation between the two of us, and because he has complied with my requests.

Now, in doing so, he has been a party to every principal governmental committee or organization that we have and, therefore, is not only kept informed of what is going on, but is in very splendid position to contribute his thinking. But I don't see how his role in the executive branch could be greater.

Q. John M. Hightower, Associated Press: Mr. President, the Soviet Government seems intent on forcing out of the country its most famous author. What do you think of the Pasternak case; and, specifically, would Mr. Pasternak be welcome in the United States?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I hadn't got to the last part of your question in my own thinking. This is a case that has not been analyzed within our own governmental circles. I have read about it carefully. I am shocked that even the Soviets would do this kind of thing, to take an author who has been so honored by the Nobel Prize group and then apparently condemn him because some of the things he said didn't coincide with their doctrine.

It's a sort of sad thing, I believe, when we find a brain and a creative mind of that kind finally told, in effect, "You will either write what we say or you won't write." That's what it is. It is a terrible thing--i put it this way: I'm not going to go into the details of the immigration laws because there might be something I don't know about them, but if he came in, I'd like to see and talk to him.

Q. Kenneth M. Scheibel, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, do you foresee any change in the administration's farm policy as a result of the elections?

THE PRESIDENT. foreign policy?

Q. Mr. Schelbel: No, farm.

THE PRESIDENT. Farm policy. No. On the contrary, I think we will struggle right square along the lines we've laid out today.

Q. Thomas N. Schroth, Congressional Quarterly: Mr. President, could you tell us what you think your role in the 1960 elections will be? Are you going to insist on a strong voice in naming the Presidential candidates on the Republican ticket? Do you think you will campaign?

THE PRESIDENT. My role for the next 2 years is to do exactly my very best to carry on the responsibilities and duties of the Presidency. I am not even thinking about that election at this time, and certainly I would be the last person to try to name any particular candidate.

Q. Milton Friedman, Jewish Telegraphic Agency: Mr. President, a number of religious organizations, Jewish, Protestant, and Catholic, have urged you to call a national White House conference to rally public opinion against racial and religious bigotry, and I wanted to know if you could tell us how you feel about that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would say two things: first, I think that for the past 6 years no one in this room has ever heard me argue for anything except readiness to obey the laws, and to educate ourselves, each of us, to reach the kind of understanding that does permit equality of opportunity among all citizens.

I have White House conferences suggested to me at least once a week. Now, I'm not so certain that White House conferences are the way to rally opinion of this kind. I believe that opinion does not have to be rallied always by some spectacular conference of that kind.

Q. Holmes Alexander, McNaught Syndicate: Mr. President, there has also been an election in Cuba and a rebellion that is continuing to go on, and a good many Americans have been captured and some have been killed. Could you give us the American policy towards the Cuban rebellion at this time?

THE PRESIDENT. There is very little to state except what our traditional policy is: to keep out of anything so far as it is humanly possible in such a thing as that; except when our own citizens are involved, and then to take the proper steps to protect them.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: On another aspect of the election, what do you think was the primary reason that so many Democrats were elected? Was it local issues or was it perhaps disenchantment with the administration nationally?

THE PRESIDENT. Disenchantment with what?

Q. Mr. Scherer: With the administration.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, so far as I know, I have never varied in my basic convictions as to the functions of the federal Government in our country and in my beliefs as to what is the great, broad, middle-of-the-road that the United States should be following.

I have preached this as loudly as I could for 6 years.

Now, after 4 years of that kind of teaching, the United States did give me, after all, a majority of I think well over nine million votes.

Here, only 2 years later, there is a complete reversal; and yet I do not see where there is anything that these people consciously want the administration to do differently. And, if I am wrong, I'd like to know what it is; but I am trying to keep the fiscal soundness of this country and to try to keep the economy on a good level keel and to work for peace.

Now, if they want me to do anything else, I don't know exactly what it is.

Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, during the campaign, some few Republicans used the words "appeasement" and "appeasers" in criticizing the Democrats. They implied that if the Democrats won there might be a change in the Government policy of resolutely opposing Communist expansion. Now that the Democrats have gained substantially in both the Senate and the House, do you foresee any change in that policy and any change in our basic lines of foreign policy?

THE PRESIDENT. No. So far as I know, I don't know of any way in which I would change the general lines of our foreign policy.

We do have new problems come up every day; and, therefore, you will always have some new solution or some new angle to a solution of that particular problem. But you never vary from your basic principles and, frankly, I do not know of any Democrat in a responsible position that would want to vary from that basic belief and practice. I think the criticism, which you have repeated and which I did not happen to read, must have been against some particular person, what some particular individual said, because certainly I don't believe anyone would say that the Democratic Party as such were appeasers.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: Mr. President, in using the term "radical wing of the Democratic Party," that is the northern and western wing, I believe both you and the Vice President and the Chairman of the National Committee used that, whose idea was that? Who originated that tactic for the campaign?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't the slightest idea. But I certainly didn't in collaboration with anybody else. There was no concerted thing. I use the term frequently, because I believe people that are arguing for spending of federal money that is not in sight, and damaging our monetary system, as they apparently want to do, can deserve exactly that name. That is a radical group.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: President, I would like to take a crack at the question about Mr. Rockefeller from a slightly different tack.

One of the things that you have most consistently emphasized is the need for young, vigorous leadership in the Republican Party. for a long time leading politicians, notably those in your party, have considered Mr. Nixon as the front runner for the Republican nomination for President in 1960. Now comes along another new Republican face in the person of Mr. Rockefeller as a possible challenger. As things stand now, do you consider Mr. Rockefeller a little bit too much on the radical or the spending side, or would you look with equal favor on either man as the standard bearer in 1960?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, obviously that is a question I wouldn't even dream of trying to answer at this time. There is going to be a practical test of exactly what every man in office is going to do, what he believes.

This is what I have said: I would like to see a whole stable of Republicans of, let's say, comparatively youthful years, of vigor, of progressive attitudes, but who, above all things, do believe in our free enterprise and are going to try to preserve it. Now, that's what I want.

Q. John R. Gibson, Wall Street Journal: Mr. President, you have spoken very vigorously this morning about holding down federal spending. Could you say some of the specific areas where you and your subordinates hope that this can be accomplished to the greatest extent?

THE PRESIDENT. Every single one except where existing law forces us to spend the money, and if we think that there are cases where we can get that law amended, I think we would go into that too. But I saw of no reason why we should spare any place, because I think every place we are spending too much money.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. President, my question is related to spending, also.

You have mentioned possible economy in defense. You have mentioned dedication to free enterprise. Would you cut in foreign aid, foreign spending, or would you cut domestically in what Democrats call the social spending--housing, schools?

THE PRESIDENT. I would say this: everything we do in the foreign field has as its basic purpose our own national security, our own national prosperity.

Now, here is what happens: you must take a matter of judgment. You are not doing these things in the foreign field as a matter just of altruism and charity. You are trying to keep an atmosphere in the world in which we can live, in which we can hope at least finally to get down some of our armament costs, and where we can prosper.

Now, whether it is in the foreign trade or whether it is in technical assistance or these development loans, if you have to do those, if that is your best way to do it, then you ought to spend the money. But you shouldn't spend money unnecessarily anywhere, is my opinion.

Q. Pat Munroe, Chicago American: Mr. President, former President Truman, writing in the current issue of Look magazine, presents a chart showing that you have increased the size of your White House staff by 50 percent. He says that the staff is getting in each other's way and is insulating you. And I wondered if your belt-tightening might not start there, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have heard criticisms of all kinds--there was one came up a couple of weeks before--and I give them the same attention. I try to do my best.

Q. Don Oberdorfer, Charlotte Observer: Mr. President, in spite of the Democratic trend throughout the country, and in spite of the tensions over Little Rock, the Republicans in the South have managed to keep the beachhead which was established several years ago when you first came into office. How do you explain the fact that the Republican Congressmen have done substantially better in the South this year than other Republicans in other parts of the country?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, I believe there are a great many people in the South, almost by tradition, almost by habit, that do think a bit more earnestly about some of the things I have discussed than, for example, a man who would put in appropriation bills last year that, of themselves and without duplication, amounted to $23 billion.

Now, to my mind that is the kind of thing that does get some sentiment anywhere there are people that will stop and think them over, and apparently they did in that place.

Q. Peter J. Kumpa, Baltimore Sun: Mr. President, going north from the South, sir, Vermont elected a Congressman at Large for the first time in some hundred-odd years. I wonder if you could give us any explanation for this phenomenon, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. No explanation. I can just say I am disappointed.

Q. Robert C. Pierpoint, CBS News: Mr. President, some people profess to see in our foreign policy a weakening of our close ties with Nationalist China and a move towards recognition of two Chinas existing side by side. I would like to hear your viewpoint on that.

THE PRESIDENT. And a move to what?

Q. Mr. Pierpoint: Toward recognition of the two Chinas existing side by side.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have cautioned often that problems, and sometimes they are factors, the principal factors, gradually change.

For example, in the latest communiqué signed by, or at least issued by, the Generalissimo and foster Dulles, there was a statement that Nationalist China was intending to use political-or I believe the word "peaceful" is there--at least political means in their attempt to win back the mainland instead of military affairs.

Well, now, you see there is something always changing in this problem. As far as I am concerned, our position has not changed as long as Red China continues to do some of the things which we cannot possibly stomach, one of them being that after 2 years ago promising to give back all our prisoners, and people that we think are illegally held, they still will do nothing about it. And there are a good many other accusations of the same kind.

Q. Warren W. Unna, Washington Post: On this same subject, about 2 months ago one of our planes went down in Soviet Armenia. The Russians have returned 6 bodies--11 are still unaccounted for. What are we doing to clear up this picture?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, all you can do with a government such as the Soviets. You protest, you request more information. So far it has been not forthcoming.

Q. Sarah McClendon, Manchester (New Hampshire) Union Leader: Sir, I wonder if you feel, in looking back over this election, if you had been more liberal, or more conservative, or more decisive in your actions somewhere along the line, if you could have avoided the defeats for your party?

THE PRESIDENT. This is what I think--I tell you once more: for 6 solid years I have preached exactly what I preached in this campaign.

You will remember in 1952 I was talking about unnecessary spending, believing that the national debt of our country had gotten to the point where it is going to be too hard to carry. When we are paying $8 billion for interest, when only 40 years ago our entire national budget was one and three-quarters billions, we have got a problem that falls on our economy of such kind, such an intensity, that all of us have got to wake up to this thing.

As a matter of fact, if we can get this whole country just awakened to this particular danger and ready to do their part about it--no President, no senator, no Congress or, as a matter of fact, all of us together, can do this all at once; every citizen has got to help--if we can do that, then this defeat in the long term of history will be completely forgotten and unimportant, because what we need is understanding.

Certainly I have never tried to kid anybody or to put anything in talk or speech in which I didn't believe. I believe we have got a terrific problem and we have all got to help solve it.

Q. Walter T. Ridder, Ridder Publications: Mr. President, in view of the heavily opposition nature of Congress, do you believe it would strengthen your hand if there existed the possibility that you could run again?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as a matter of fact, there would really be no possibility, even if there were not a constitutional thing, because any man--I remarked a while ago if the Lord spares me that long--more than 70 should not be in this office. Now, that I am certain of.

Q. S. Douglass Cater, Jr., Reporter Magazine: Mr. President, in view of the fact that guided missiles will be coming into an operational phase in the near future, do you have any real hope that you can reduce or even maintain the level of Government spending in the next 2 years?

THE PRESIDENT. This is what I believe: when guided missiles prove their efficiency, then certainly there must be some other kind of weapon that they are displacing. And if that is not true, then I will tell you we better go into a garrison state, because there is no other way to meet the expenses.

Now that, I believe, is true: that they must not merely supplement older methods; they will have to displace. As a matter of fact, this is another thing we have been trying to say--if we are going to defend ourselves by what we called the "New Look" in 1953, we have got to do some good, hard thinking on the thing, and not just pile one weapon and one system of weapons on another, and so in the long run break ourselves.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, does the sort of thing that happened yesterday, the widespread Democratic victories, discourage you in your earlier views for molding the Republican Party along lines of what you called "Modern Republicanism"?

THE PRESIDENT. first of all, I have defined "Modern Republicanism" a number of times: the Republican Party that is ready to meet modern problems in accordance with the basic principles or traditional principles of the Party.

Now, I don't believe that anyone who has such strong convictions as I do about certain things can afford to be discouraged. I had a very tough counterattack once in Kasserine, and another in "The Bulge." Well, if you'd got discouraged and saw in those things nothing but defeat and pessimism and didn't have the strength, really, to look upon them as opportunities of some kind, then, indeed, you would be rather futile. So I don't for one minute expect to be discouraged by them.

Q. Henry N. Taylor, Scripps-Howard: Sir, among the losers have been several Republicans who had opposed many of your foreign aid programs and some of your other programs overseas, including Senator Bricker and Senator Malone. Do you think it will be easier or harder now to get congressional support for your programs overseas?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I wouldn't predict on that basis. As a matter of fact, as I recall, except for the single thing of the Bricker amendment, I think he and I were normally pretty much in the same camp. Certainly our conversations and discussions and conferences were all on the friendliest basis, and that is my impression although I am not going to look up the voting record.

Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: Sir, we are about to sit down once again with the Russians in Geneva to discuss how to prevent a sneak attack upon one another. Is there anything new in this, sir, that might give us hope there might be some success coming from there?

THE PRESIDENT. Wall, this morning--somewhere along about noon, I think, I have the committee up-- Mr. foster, General Weyland, and Dr. Kistiakowsky. They are coming up and we are going to have a conference before they start. That is just starting on November 10th.

Q. Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register: Mr. President, you have mentioned the spending in the Defense Department here as one of the important issues, and the General Accounting Office, which is the watchdog on frauds and extravagance in the various agencies, has been barred from reports over in the Air force and the Defense Department generally, and on this they claim that they have authority from you to withhold reports any time it is "inexpedient to do so." I wonder if you have given that authority and if you feel that the GAO should have a full rein to go in and investigate all indications of fraud and extravagance.

THE PRESIDENT. You are obviously talking about some special thing that I would have to study before I could give an answer.

I have stated this time and again: I believe that every investigating committee of the Congress, every auditing office like the GAO, should always have an opportunity to see official records if the security of our country is not involved.

Q. Mr. Mollenhoff: Well, they claim this, Mr. President, under Executive privilege.

THE PRESIDENT. NO, that's all I have to say--I told you that is all I had to say for the moment.

Q. Martin Agronsky, NBC News: Mr. President, you said you phoned Mr. Rockefeller this morning.

THE PRESIDENT. NO, I didn't phone him, I telegraphed him.

Q. Mr. Agronsky: You telegraphed. Did you telegraph any other Republicans, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I got several--some of them are still in draft form, but I am sending several.

Q. Mr. Agronsky: Could you tell us who they are, sir?

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

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you.

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and forty-fourth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 9:57 to 10:31 o'clock on Wednesday morning, November 5, 1958. In attendance: 195.

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/234316

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