Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

July 08, 1959

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

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, the situation in the steel wage talks remains stalemated as you know, with the new strike deadline just a few days off. Do you plan any new move, anything to try to avert such a strike?

THE PRESIDENT. No, other than to continue to urge both sides to continue negotiations to find a reasonable answer. This suggestion was' made in my letter that I sent to both sides some days back.

There is one misapprehension I think I should clear up. Someone reported to me that they thought I had personally requested a continuation of work for 2 weeks. I took no such action. I simply asked that they continue to negotiate until a solution was reached.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press International: Mr. President, there is a story from Moscow this morning that Premier Khrushchev told the American Governors who visited with him yesterday two things: that he is available for travel--[laughter]--and that he would like very much to visit the United States.

But, a new and somewhat significant point is that he thinks, he told them that he thinks a visit by you to Russia would be very beneficial to relations between both countries.

I wonder what your feelings on this same subject are?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I certainly have not reached any conclusion about the suggestion you just bring to my attention because this is the first time I have heard of it.

There are very many questions, very serious, in such a meeting because, after all, the United States is a member of a group of nations that try to work together in defending their own interests for promoting peace and their own security. So, for one head of such a government to make anything that could be called a negotiation or an agreement would rather be difficult, and I would say possibly misunderstood.

Now, if you have a meeting of the kind that takes place between the heads of government when they come here, or I go somewhere else, then you'd say that's more social--it has a social aspect--ceremonial, and that sort of thing, a gesture of good will. But I assume that we are now talking about real tough negotiations; it would have to be studied very thoroughly before you would make any move in that direction.

Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, Averell Harriman reports that on June 23, Premier Khrushchev told him, "Your generals talk of maintaining your position in Berlin with force. That is bluff. If you send in tanks, they will burn and make no mistake about it. If you want war, you can have it, but remember, it will be your war. Our rockets will fly automatically."

What do you think of talk such as this?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't think anything about it at all. I don't believe that responsible people should indulge in anything that can be even remotely considered ultimatums or threats. That is not the way to reach peaceful solutions.

Q. Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, Mr. Harriman also reported that he thought it would be a good idea if Mr. Khrushchev were invited to the United States, to rid him of some of his misconceptions. I know we have talked about this before, but what do you think about an invitation to him at this time, inasmuch as Mr. Mikoyan and Kozlov have already come here?

THE PRESIDENT. Here is something that I would never rule out of the realm of possibility. But we have, as I say, very tough questions to settle. We have to concert our positions with our friends and allies. So if this man were to make just a ceremonial visit, I'd say there it would be a matter of his own, let's say, reception that would be important in the country.

Q. Henry Taylor, Scripps-Howard: Sir, in the NATO Council in Paris this morning, the United States has formally told France that we intend to withdraw our fighter bombers from France, due to the absence of nuclear warheads there. Do you have any plans to talk to General de Gaulle about this, and do you think this is an intention which will have to actually take place?

THE PRESIDENT. As I understand it, some of these movements are taking place. And, of course, General de Gaulle and I have agreed long since that at the first opportunity we would talk together about many things that are of interest to both countries. This particular one had not been specified, but we have agreed that all of the matters where we don't see quite eye to eye, why, we should talk over and see if we can do anything about it.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, NBC News: Mr. President, about your veto power, some of your Republican friends are saying that if you should use your veto a good deal, it could perhaps boomerang and result in a kind of negative public image of the Presidency. I wondered if you had considered this fact in your calculations.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'm not thinking so much of public images as I am the public good.

I call your attention, again, that I cannot be running for anything; I am finished with political life when my next, I guess it's 18 months, are over.

It seems to me if any man has almost the compulsion to think only of the United States of America and its citizens rather than any political image or political ambition, then I should be, or any President who is in his second term today should be, such an individual.

So the veto is used by me not lightly. I don't enjoy having to say that these things are bad and to explain the reasons why I think they are bad. What I'm trying to do is to get legislation passed that will benefit the United States and keep us solvent at the same time.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: Mr. President, the foreign ministers are going to be back at Geneva again on Monday. I wonder if you could tell us if you see any change in the prospects of agreement on Berlin and thereby the possibilities of a summit, whether you have given Secretary Herter any new instructions this morning?

THE PRESIDENT. I think there has been no change in our attitude from that reported by Mr. Herter shortly after he returned from Geneva from his prior visit.

We continue to say that the firm position we have is that of respecting our responsibilities and making certain that we retain our rights with respect to Berlin. From there on, and with that solid conviction as the unmovable stone in the whole structure, we are ready to talk and discuss anything because we certainly do want to find some way of reaching a solution that will not keep the whole world on edge--for example, as evidenced by the number of questions that are properly brought up on this matter right here in meetings such as this. I concede that under the present conditions they are proper, and they are newsworthy. But we are trying to get to a place where that will be a little less than that. We must do it, in my opinion, if we are going to do a real service for the citizens of the world.

Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: Quite apart from the legalisms of the situation, Mr. President, have you any opinion as to whether racial segregation is morally wrong?

THE PRESIDENT. Myself?

Q. Mr. Lawrence: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I suppose there are certain phases of a segregation-you are talking about, I suppose, segregation by local laws--

Q. Mr. Lawrence: In public facilities.

THE PRESIDENT.--in other words, that interfere with the citizens' equality of opportunity in both the economic and the political fields?

Q. Mr. Lawrence: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. I think to that extent, that is morally wrong, yes.

Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, you had rather a long talk last week after you saw us, with Mr. Kozlov. Was anything produced out of that talk that would give any new hopes, any new elements raised?

THE PRESIDENT. I Saw nothing new. Of course there was a great protestation of friendly intentions; just as I say, on my side, that we want to be friendly, that we recognize that there is a basic friendship between the Russian people and our people. Everybody that comes back and reports this, reports the interest of the Russian people in what we are doing, how we live. They seem to feel that it will be a great service to mankind when the feelings of those people are allowed to be influential, let's say. And I say the same thing.

I would say I think the American people basically like the Russian people, as they know them. So therefore I think there ought to be some way of exploiting that natural almost affinity between the two peoples and see whether we can't get somewhere.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. President, the laws say that only the President can order the release of nuclear bombs. I am told there is no provision for the President to delegate that power.

Do you think in the exigencies of modern war that there should be such an authorization? Do you think that your informal agreement with Mr. Nixon on assuming the Presidency if necessary carries the authorization to use nuclear bombs?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you sound to me a little bit like a lawyer, Mrs. Craig, because I'm not so sure; I don't see how you could first of all deny any Commander in Chief, as a matter of fact, of exercising the responsibility for some delegation when it needs to be done. That's just his job, that's the way he would run things.

If in an emergency Mr. Nixon would succeed to my responsibilities, I would think that he would take them over in toto for whatever period he was there, and that there would be no reason for him not doing so. He would, in fact, be the acting President; and of course, in the case of a fatality, why then he'd be the permanent President.

So I think there would be no question about that at all.

Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: Mr. President, are you at all apprehensive that a steel strike might upset this recovery tempo which we seem to be enjoying at the moment?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know exactly what would be the effect. It would depend upon the recovery and its duration.

I do say this: I really believe that it's a pity that we can't all act in accordance with our basic conceptions as to what is good for the country, and therefore not have a strike. I think that in the industrial field a strike is the last action that can ever be taken that is possible to take. We ought to negotiate and keep negotiating until we have gotten somewhere. And I really believe that it can be done if people will just keep before their eyes what the United States needs, rather than just each side.

Q. Lambert Brose, Lutheran Layman: To pursue the subject of visits of officials from Russia to this country a little further, the Mayor of Detroit refused to meet Mr. Kozlov but the business executives of that city, including Henry Ford II, gave him a warm welcome; and similarly, business executives in California did likewise.

Do you see a danger that the peoples of Eastern Europe might think we are sort of glossing over Russia's takeover of both countries and other crimes, and perhaps lose heart and despair of ever regaining their independence?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that's one of the things that you have to consider when you think about such visits back and forth. But, on the other hand, I think that the citizens of the United States are accustomed to paying to the head of any country that comes here, or one of their high officials, the deportment that is expected from civilized people. They show that kind of deportment, and I don't think that they are necessarily showing any approval.

Now, I admit that such things are possible of misinterpretation, and that's one reason I say we must be very careful indeed when we do these things.

Q. Sarah McClendon, Camden (N.J.) Courier Post: Sir, we have here a very strange thing. When you started this session of Congress, you were at somewhat of a disadvantage in your second term, and you had a big Democratic majority in Congress. It looked for awhile as if Congress might wag the White House but now it looks as if you have the power, not only in the veto and in the bills that you are able to get passed to work your will on Congress, it also looks as if you were winning the propaganda war, sort of, between the Democrats and the Republicans.

Would you give us some idea of how, what system you employed to do this? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Well I guess everybody would have their own, but I don't admit for a second all of the allegations you make in your premise-[laughter]--to be fact. I am having really a very busy, hard time because I think there are too many people that are not looking at many of these problems in the broadest possible way. When you come down to it, I stick by that; I am trying to do what I believe will be good for the country, and I repeat, as I said this morning, I don't enjoy vetoing bills. I don't believe that there is any validity in such expressions as "government by veto."

I am part of the process of legislation and when I, who am the only official, along with the Vice President, who is voted into office by all the people, I think I have got a special responsibility to all the people. So I try to tell them and explain to them what I am doing. If they approve, that ought to have some effect.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, you say you are still having trouble with your foreign aid bill.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

Q. Mr. Brandt: One reason, the Congressmen tell us and we as newspapers know, we cannot get the facts about the foreign aid program: the foreign aid program cites what they call the Dworshak amendment which says there shall be no propaganda about the foreign aid.

Have you discussed with Director Riddleberger about changing that amendment so that the people and the Congressmen can learn something about the foreign aid program?

THE PRESIDENT. I knew that none of their appropriations could be used for propaganda purposes, or what we would prefer calling educational purposes, but I did not know that this barred newspaper people in visiting these offices from getting facts, and I will look into it. Certainly, when I go on the television, and I have done it several times on this mutual security business, I tell the facts right down the line as far as my time will allow me to do so. And I think it should be done. Pardon me, just let me take a minute of time, now.

I think the number one problem for the United States, and even for the world today, is this: for all Americans to understand the basic issues confronting us. Public opinion is the only motivating force there is in a republic or in a democracy, and that public opinion must be an informed one if it is going to be effective in solving the problems that face this poor world internationally and in many instances domestically.

Therefore, I think that any trouble we take to keep people informed, as long as we are not damaging in any way the national security, I think we ought to do it, and there ought to be some way.

I didn't know about this particular--well, I suppose I've been told about it, but I didn't think of it at the time, and I'll look into it.

Q. Mr. Brandt: May I say something more on that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

Q. Mr. Brandt: You had a Mr. Hollister in there who did not have a press conference You had a Mr. Smith in there who did not have a press conference. Hollister, I think, had one.

Now, you have a new man now, Riddleberger, and have you discussed it with him?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I haven't discussed with him this particular point, no, because I really didn't realize that the law was this strict and specific.

Q. Mr. Brandt: We did have very pleasant relations with Paul Hoffman.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

Q. Mr. Brandt: But in recent years we have not had access--

THE PRESIDENT. [Addresses Mr. Hagerty] You look at it for me. I'll look it up.

Q. Rutherford M. Poats, United Press International: Mr. President, speaking of the foreign aid bill, the Senate has very heavily reduced the appropriation bill, the authorization for military aid, and has done it in such a way as to allocate a much smaller amount for Asia and the Middle East, particularly. In view of your support of the Draper committee report, in which you have stated that a big cut would be disastrous for those countries along the periphery of the Communist areas, can you give us your views as to what effective action you may take or are thinking of taking to head off this disaster, as you have seen it?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there are a number of things. Of course I can use every bit of persuasive power that I have to make these people see that they are, to my mind, ignoring some of the basic considerations in the security of this Nation and in the security of our vital interests in other areas. Next, if we haven't enough of the means to carry out the responsibilities we believe to be ours, there is always the possibility for deficiency bills. And if you don't have that, if you can't do it because of the lack of authorization, law, then you could have only one other recourse and that would be a special session.

But in any event, I am never going to give up the basic fight for the Nation's security and for protecting our vital interests, as I see them. I asked here what I thought was a minimum sum, $1.6 billion. The Draper committee thought we ought to go $400 million more, and I agree that in the '61 budget there has to be more than 1.6.

Now, they are cutting this 1.6, and I just personally believe that they are not taking into account the tremendous responsibilities that the United States has in these areas, if we are going to protect our own interest, and to keep our own expenditures down to the minimum in this whole area of national and free world security.

Q. David Kraslow, Knight Newspapers: Mr. President, do you feel there is any reason why a Catholic should not be elected President of the United States?

And, secondly sir, do you feel that a Catholic could be elected President?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the first one is simple. Of course there is no reason. As far as I am concerned, it's a perfectly extraneous question. I think it's like asking a man whether he is a Methodist or a Presbyterian or something of that kind. I do not agree at all with the theory that prejudice, religious prejudice, should rule our choice of candidates and officials in this Nation.

Now whether he could be elected, whether it could be done, I have no opinion whatsoever.

Now, there was only once, of course, At Smith was nominated, and he was defeated. I don't know whether the thinking of the country has changed, but I'll say this: if I saw any man that I thought was really a qualified responsible individual running for office, my vote would never be changed on the basis of his religion.

Q. Spencer Davis, Associated Press: Mr. President, have you received reports that Communist China now has rockets capable of the destruction of the 7th Fleet and of attacking Formosa and--

THE PRESIDENT. You are referring to the statements made by Mr. Khrushchev?

Q. Mr. Davis: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, that's the only written word on this that I have seen, reading the accounts of his own statements.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Khrushchev also told those Governors yesterday that the Soviets envied and admired American bigness, riches, and strength. This does not seem to be altogether a wistful observation. We are told repeatedly of the longterm planning that the Russians have and that one of the main objectives of these long-term plans is to overcome us.

This Government, on the other hand, seems unable for a variety of reasons, to plan its programs more than from year to year in sort of pieces.

Are you concerned about this, sir? Is it possible that if the Russians are overtaking us, that they are doing so partly because they are out-planning us?

THE PRESIDENT. One of the reasons, Mr. Morgan, that I have made such strenuous efforts to get properly organized and supported what I call the National Goals Commission--for the simple reason that I think we are doing too much of our thinking, indeed of our operations in political Washington on the basis of just "one time," of the one trip of the earth around the sun, and this to my mind makes no sense whatsoever.

We have got to look ahead and we ought to see today, when we pass a law, what's going to be its effect 5 years from now. A bill, for example, that cost you $15 million now, as you look and begin to analyze it, well, in 5 years it will be $75 million, and that kind of thing. In the same way, everything we do of a constructive character, where is it going to lead us, what's it doing? We've got to do the same thing whether it's trying to increase our GNP, of course which is going up now, but I mean if we're going to have a steady growth instead of a sort of a cyclic thing that is all dips and ups. We don't want that, we want a steady growth. And I am for it.

Q. Mr. Morgan: Mr. President, what has happened to your plan for the Committee on National Goals?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there is a great deal of work in getting it all organized and financed, because I am determined it will not be done by the Government. It's going to be done privately.

Q. Roscoe Drummond, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, in light of the tenor of the questions here this morning on West Berlin, and in light of Mr. Khrushchev's provocative remarks to Governor Harriman, do you feel that the American people are adequately alerted to the consequences that might flow from failure to get an agreed solution on this problem?

THE PRESIDENT. I think they are, Mr. Drummond. It seems to me we have been talking about both the near- and far-term consequences of failure to get some kind of an agreement. We are constantly plagued with this, that we are putting more of our substance, more of our sweat, our toil, and our man-hours into these negative things we call armaments for no reason whatsoever, no constructive thing. They're just to hold on what we have. We are, even our minds are atmosphered in the thought of destruction. We think in terms of atomic bombs and missiles. The world is suffering a terrible loss, I think spiritually and materially, in every way, in this failure. But I'm quite sure that the people are alerted to. what could be the eventual consequences of this failure, and that's the reason we must never stop trying, and that's the reason I say I am personally ready to go any place where I think any good can be done, and at any time.

So, if they are not alert to it, then I don't know where they are, because I do meet a good many types of people from the soldiers and the people that are working around me, and I know that their understanding is quite clear that this is a tough situation all the time.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and sixty-third news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:30 to 11:00 o'clock on Wednesday morning, July 8, 1959. In attendance: 191.

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/235133

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