Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

July 15, 1959

THE PRESIDENT. Please sit down.

Good morning. I have no announcements.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press International: Mr. President, from what you know of steel stockpiles and the requirements of the Government, could you estimate roughly how long it would be before the steel strike interferes with defense production?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I wouldn't want to make an accurate estimate of the length of such a period. Manifestly, if all our steel that's now in inventories is used up, why, you get into a very serious situation.

Q. William McGaffin, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, looking back, do you feel that you could have done anything more to avert a steel strike? Would it have been wiser, perhaps, in retrospect, to have appointed a fact-finding board, or to invoke the Taft-Hartley processes?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't think so. If I had thought it was better, I would have done something else. I believe that we have got thoroughly to test out and to use the method of free bargaining, and the second that we try to bring the free bargaining, collective bargaining, about by pressure of Government that is too great under the circumstances, then I believe it's not free.

Now, the law says--the Taft-Hartley Act--that under conditions, certain conditions, why, the President can invoke this So-day cooling-off thing, but those conditions are certainly not here at the moment.

As far as a fact-finding board is concerned, I believe that all the facts are pretty well known. There was a question asked me here a couple of weeks ago whether the Government had anything in this line, and I find that in all our reports, in the Labor statistics and the Commerce and the other figures that are published, some quarterly, some monthly, they are all there. So the facts are there and the public knows them, if they want to take the trouble to read them.

I do believe that I have done what should be done, which is to. keep urging on both sides statesmanship and a readiness to negotiate, and I will still continue it. I believe that now they should do so, and I had requested and suggested they ask for the assistance of the Federal Mediation Service, and they have done that and are meeting today under that method.

Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, can you give us your reaction to the testimony yesterday before a Senate subcommittee, of Major Diaz, a former Castro Air Force chief, charging that Premier Castro was a willing tool of international communism?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, he says that; there is no question that's what his testimony said.

Now such things are charged, and they are not always easy to prove. The United States has made no such charges. The United States is watching the whole area. The Caribbean area is in a state of unrest. The OAS has moved in to the extent of asking for a meeting for the foreign ministers to go all through this situation and see what should be done. The United States expects to cooperate with the OAS. That's our stand today.

Q. David Kraslow, Knight Newspapers: Mr. President, could you tell us if General Swing was called to the White House within the past few days to discuss the handling of the Diaz y Lanz case?

THE PRESIDENT. He was there twice in the last few days, but I don't think once that the Lanz case was mentioned, not as I recall.

Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: Mr. President, a Senate Labor Subcommittee has just reported out a $ 1.25 minimum wage bill with extended coverage, and Secretary of Labor Mitchell has called this bill inflationary. I wonder whether you share this opinion of the bill?

THE PRESIDENT. I agree with the Secretary absolutely.

Q. Rowland Evans, Jr., New York Herald Tribune: Do you recall, sir, in 1954 your warning about a possible outbreak of partisan conflict if the Democrats won Congress, and you amended that later?

But, I wonder against that backdrop whether you would discuss your relations with the Democratic Congress today, and tell us, sir, whether you are still finding time for an occasional visit with Speaker Rayburn and Senator Johnson, the two leaders in Congress.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know--you say "finding time."

Whenever there seems to be an occasion I am always ready and have in the past invited them to come see me.

Now, so far as I know, there has been no damage to the personal relations between the three of us, and therefore there is no reason why we shouldn't have personal meetings.

Now, when it comes down to the relations of any President with a Congress controlled by the opposite party, I just say this: it is no bed of roses. [Laughter]

Q. Frank van der Linden, Nashville Banner: Sir, for the last 4 years you've asked Congress to pass a bill allowing the Tennessee Valley Authority to issue its own bonds to expand its power facilities.

Now, the two Houses of Congress have finally passed such a bill, but Senator Dirksen has said that if he were President, he would veto it.

I wondered, sir, does that represent your thinking or do you think you would sign that bill?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I never have made any predictions about that kind of thing.

I will say this: the failure to give what I believe a proper restriction on the expansion, and the failure to make provision for the TVA's financing to come through the budgetary process are both serious defects.

Q. Sarah McClendon, San Antonio Light: Sir, there seems to be a sort of a slow move on the part of the National Wool Growers Association and now aided by the American Meat Institute, to get Secretary of Agriculture Benson to take quality grading off of all meat, particularly the lamb that the American people eat.

I wonder if you think this would be wise?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, there is one--you know I raise beef-[laughter] and I don't know anything about this lamb problem at the moment. I'll look it up. But the wool and the importation of wool, that problem I've gone into very deeply. I didn't know about this, but I'll talk to the Secretary about it.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Senator Truman had a labor expert on his staff, John Steelman. Who in the White House is watching the steel strike for you, what organization have you got for that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you have two people; three people, really. You have got, first of all, the Secretary of Labor who keeps in touch with it and talks with me every day. You have the Chairman of the Economic Advisers, who is deeply immersed in this thing. I've got Mr. Paarlberg, who is my economic adviser within the White House itself, and then, of course, you have Mr. Morgan, who has been in this field with the labor committees and so on of the Congress for a long, long time. So all of those people--as a matter of fact, usually as a group--come to see me.

Q. Richard Harkness, NBC News: Mr. President, going to your discussion of last week with us about your vetoes, do you fear a period of stalemate where there can be no legislation, no advance in the vital fields of welfare, housing, and farm bills, necessary legislation?

THE PRESIDENT. I'll give you just a few statistics on vetoes.

Now, I've been accused of trying to govern by vetoes.

President Cleveland, in 8 years in the White House, had 584 vetoes.

President Roosevelt, in 12 years, and who never had a Congress ruled by the opposition, had 614 vetoes.

There were others that were quite large.

I believe so far my record is 140, and so far as I know, not a single one of them has been on partisan basis. So I'm still hopeful that there will be enough commonsense, meeting together between the Executive and the Legislature, that we will get the necessary bills passed.

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, some time ago I believe you stated that wage increases should reflect productivity increases in the economy and that anything beyond that is apt to be inflationary.

Have any recent developments changed your mind in regard to that principle?

THE PRESIDENT. No. As a matter of fact this is a generalization that I made. I said I believed that wage increases, if they go beyond the increase in individual productivity, then you begin to have something that compels rising costs and, that means, has an inflationary effect. But, I still believe that.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, NBC News: Since Mr. Nixon's visit to Russia is somewhat ceremonial, and since it's been stated he will not negotiate, can you give your hopes for his visit?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, first of all, of course it's a return courtesy. The First Deputy came to this country to visit the Russian exhibition up in New York, and then to make a visit around our country.

Mr. Nixon is going over to open our exhibit, and I am very hopeful that his schedule will be so arranged in cooperation with the Soviets that he gets exactly the same kind of privileges and opportunities that were shown to Mr. Kozlov.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, I beg your pardon in advance for a long question.

A serious public health situation which in fact has existed for a long time seems to be just coming to general attention. It involves the disposal of radioactive waste froth commercial plants.

For example, the Public Health Service confirms that several thousand people living on a river in Colorado are exposed to radioactivity at levels far above those acceptable for human safety, from soil, from crops, from water, and from the air, due to the dumping by a uranium-processing company of waste in the river. Even the fish have disappeared.

Some remedial action seems to be now about to be taken. Has the Atomic Energy Commission explained to you any reason why there has been such a delay on this problem, and do you have any comment on this problem in general?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, no. Here is the point: the Atomic Energy has a special section that has to deal with all of this matter of radioactive fallout and so on, and I have been briefed on this from time to time. This is one incident of which I have not heard; and the only thing I can say on this one, I will look, I will make inquiries right away.

Q. Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register and Tribune: Mr. President, several committees of Congress have charged recently that departments of your administration have used secrecy and so-called executive privilege to hide imprudence, mismanagement, fraud, and in some cases material that has later resulted in indictments. And the Comptroller General, Mr. Campbell, has also said that these departments have violated the law, the Budgeting and Accounting Act, in withholding information from him in violation of this law which says that all material shall be made available.

I wondered if you have taken any steps to correct this, or how you reconcile this withholding with the Budgeting and Accounting Act which says it must be put forth to the Comptroller General, and your own constitutional requirement that you faithfully execute the laws.

THE PRESIDENT. I think you had better put that question in written form and let me take a look at it because you start off, right off the bat with the premise or implication that someone is guilty of fraud and I don't believe it.

I will see your letter, if you would like to submit it.

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, the other day Democratic National Chairman Paul Butler urged congressional opposition to your proposal for increasing the interest rate ceiling, and in doing that he said this. He said, "The Democrats traditionally favor high wages for workingmen and salaried employees. The Republicans favor high wages for money," which is the way he defines interest.

Do you consider this a valid statement of a basic difference between the major parties?

THE PRESIDENT. I'd say it's ridiculous.

What we are trying to do, to make what a man earns today buy an equal amount of groceries or what else he needs, tomorrow. In other words, we are trying to combat and to stop this constant price rise that we know as inflation, the cheapening of our money and the excessive costs in the production of the things that we have to have. These are the things that we are trying to do.

One of the important parts of this is the handling of the Federal financing. And Federal financing today, I remind you, means the handling of a 280-plus billions of dollars of debt all the time.

When we get to the point that we cannot borrow money for longer than 5 years without the interest limit, we've got an increasing amount of this money that has to be turned over all the time and drying up all of the sources, private sources of investment in this country. We simply have got to get this debt scattered out through the years up, say, to 30 ahead. We cannot do that with this limit, because today, the last time we put out some bills on an auction basis, what will the market pay, we had to pay at that moment 4-7. That, to my mind, is showing what the trend is. We are demanding too much short-term money right now, all the time.

To make such a statement shows--to my mind, at the very least, and the kindest thing I could say--its ignorance.

Q. Charles H. Mohr, Time Magazine: Mr. President, you have said that before leaving office you hope to lay before the Congress a plan to do what you call reorganize the highest echelons of Government, and we realize you probably have not been able to make a final policy determination, but I wonder if you could tell us your tentative thinking on such a reorganization and especially whether you would favor the so-called three Vice Presidents plan that was discussed in 1958, informally, in the administration.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'll just tell you this much, one negative feature. I would not favor the use of the term of "Vice President." That has a constitutional, traditional meaning, and I don't think we could use the term "Vice President" in any other way.

I believe this: the Government should have some reorganization. It constantly remains a bit antiquated, and it puts certain burdens upon higher officials of Government that become practically, you might say, not unbearable but unsolvable under the present system.

Now, I've got my plans all set up, but I'm not going to put it before the Congress until the final session when I'm here, because I'm not going to do it with any thought that it is I who will profit, but somebody else that will come after me and will have the benefit of a better organization. That is exactly what I expect to do.

Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, have you any comment on the new talks at Geneva--any comment on the resumed talks at Geneva?

THE PRESIDENT. No, they seem to be off to a very slow start. At the first session, when it was suggested that they resume these private talks which seem to be more productive than the plenary talks, Mr. Gromyko insisted that the Germans come into this particular type of meeting. I believe the final agreement was they'd have to go back to plenary sessions, and I believe it's on, I think it's Friday, maybe it's Thursday, the next one. The 15th, wasn't it? [Confers with Mr. Hagerty]

I think it is.

But in any event, there doesn't seem to be any bright, hopeful rift in the clouds at the moment, but we are still plugging away.

Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: Mr. President, has Secretary Herter discussed with you his hopes to bring Mr. Bohlen back into a high position in the State Department as an adviser on Soviet affairs? Do you have an opinion on it?

THE PRESIDENT. Twice he suggested this to me--I mean, he brought up the subject, because he had seen stories in the paper that this was going to be done. And he said as far as he was concerned, he had done nothing about it and didn't intend to at that moment. So he wasn't even discussing it. So, in other words, his report to me was completely negative.

Q. Mr. Lawrence: At a press conference since then, he has--

HE PRESIDENT. I don't care what he may have said--

Q. Mr. Lawrence: --he has not discussed--

THE PRESIDENT. He told me and that's the last time I've seen him.

Q. Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News: About Geneva again, do you believe that the Russians are seriously trying to reach an agreement at Geneva?

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't understand the question.

Q. Mr. Lisagor: Do you believe that the Russians are seriously trying to reach an agreement at Geneva?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think they'd like an agreement which was all in their favor; there's no question about that. Of course they would.

But are they ready--I think a better question, if I could rephrase it for you--are we ready to see concessions made, some of them on both sides, that will ease the situation there and give everybody a confidence that we are making some kind of a step toward peace?

Q. Donald H. Shannon, Los Angeles Times: Yesterday at the Senate Rackets Committee talk with the President of the Teamsters he acknowledged that he is planning a merger of the Teamsters and the Longshoremen, and I wondered how you viewed the prospect of a national transportation union headed by Hoffa and Harry Bridges?

THE PRESIDENT. Well that's one I had better not comment on here. Thank you very much. [Laughter]

Q. Henry N. Taylor, Scripps-Howard: Mr. President, in this Geneva tangle at the present time there has been some discussion of the possibility of leaving the Berlin issue unsolved without any further easement on it, if the Soviets won't permit it, to go forward to a summit conference on other issues entirely. I wonder if you could give us your views on that.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know exactly what you mean. Do you mean that you would go to a summit conference under an ultimatum of time, or under a statement that we were going to be thrown out at a particular time, whether it's 1 year, 2 years, or 3 years? I don't know exactly what you mean.

Q. Mr. Taylor: Well, this presupposes--

THE PRESIDENT. In other words, let me answer it this way: there has to be some clear understanding of our rights and our responsibilities before you can go ahead and negotiate.

Now, I am not adverse, along with my associates or this Government's associates, in negotiating about ultimate fate of Germany, Berlin and all the rest of it, but in the meantime there has got to be clear recognition of our rights and responsibilities.

Q. Frank Bourgholtzer, NBC News: Can you tell us whether you have given Secretary Herter sufficient authority to commit you to a summit conference or can he only advise you for a final decision on your part?

THE PRESIDENT. Secretary Herter and I are completely in agreement with all the rest of the Government as far as I know, almost unanimously with the American people, that we are not going to surrender our rights or to make a retreat that could be clear evidence of weakness on our resolution, and weakness in the West.

Now, if that matter is settled clearly, we have that kind of progress, why then Secretary Herter has the authority to make any kind of a plan, subject of course to final approval as to detail, but he knows that he can go ahead from there and negotiate.

Q. John R. Gibson, Wall Street Journal: Mr. President, on the subject of interest rates for Government bonds, there is considerable discussion these days on the Hill and within the administration on the so-called Metcalf amendment which would say that the Federal Reserve should buy bonds as a manner of increasing the money supply. What is your view of this amendment and would you favor perhaps no bill at all rather than have this amendment tacked on or would you go along with it?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I wouldn't here announce a final decision. I say this, these two amendments, there are two of them that are very bad we think: one, the 2-year limit; and the other one that implies that we should embark on what we would, and I think the Federal Reserve would call unsound financial operations. And the first thing that I believe that's in the Federal Reserve Act is that it's duty is to see that the finances of the United States are handled on a sound basis.

So, we are concerned deeply about these two amendments. Now I cannot give you any prediction on what I will do.

Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, over the weekend Averell Harriman suggested that it might be wise to give some form of diplomatic recognition to East Germany. What do you think of such an idea?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know how you can give some form of diplomatic recognition as of now. We certainly have no such thought in our heads.

Q. Gordon White, Chicago American: Mr. President, when Mr. Mikoyan was here some time ago you said that you didn't believe it would be possible to have Premier Khrushchev under the same terms formally visiting the United States. But some people-now seem to believe that Mr. Khrushchev is a prisoner of his own propaganda and perhaps does not really understand the situation in the United States. Do you feel now that it would be worth while for the Russian Premier to visit the U.S.?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, we discussed that question last week quite thoroughly here, as I recall, and while here is one of those things again that I don't reject out of hand, because I have constantly stated that any time I believe that we can promote the interests of the United States and its standing in the world and the cause of freedom, then I will do anything. And if it ever should come up that I believe this would be a good thing, well, then, I, of course, I'm not going to refuse. But we did discuss last week the pros and cons and we thought the cons, for the moment, sort of had the day.

Q. Milburn Petty, Oil Daily: Mr. President, do you think a compromise is possible on highway financing that would keep the highway program on schedule, and if so, in what areas of compromise would be acceptable to you.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, all legislation, all government, almost, is compromise. Now, I think this: it would be difficult to have the highway program on its current schedule without providing the revenues for which I asked, for the simple reason that it was on this basis we asked the amount--the 1 ½ cents. Therefore, if there is any compromise, there would have to be a slowup in the schedule, as I see it.

Q. Peter Edson, Newspaper Enterprise Association: Mr. President, the West German Government has apparently suggested, with regard to Geneva talks, that a commission be created to handle the German question similar to the commission that settled the Austrian peace treaty. Does this seem to offer a reasonable approach for ending the Geneva talks or transferring their problem to a body that could make a settlement that is not a summit conference?

THE PRESIDENT. You mean that we'd just--

All they have done, as I recall, the West Germans did suggest we might have a meeting of the four High Commissioners with German advisers from both sides, and then make this their special problem.

Now, these were not four foreign ministers; these were four representatives of special commissions. I believe that that idea was suggested even publicly, and I think that there was a rejection of that idea from the other side.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and sixty-fourth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:31 to 11:00 o'clock on Wednesday morning, July 15, 1959. In attendance: 201.

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/235142

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